Improved air quality is one positive outcome from lockdown – and it’s led to wildflowers and bees thriving in Nottingham’s parks and along roadsides.
The council has a pledge to increase bee-friendly environments in all 20 city wards, and these efforts have been accelerated as a result of coronavirus restrictions. “Excuse the weeds, we’re feeding the bees” and “Nottingham Bee Friendly” signs have recently gone up on the city’s Ring Road to highlight the new approach.
Public realm operatives who would otherwise have mown grassed areas are now working elsewhere in the council, and this along with no herbicide spraying in parks is allowing plants and wildlife to thrive.
The current lockdown situation has seen fewer cars on the road, lower levels of commuting and less movement overall, which is benefitting local wildlife. There are many more wildflowers and insects, and as pollinating insects feed from the flowers, they will pollinate our crops and plants.
The Council Plan pledge involves a range of actions, from introducing bee hotels to changing mowing patterns, plus a maintenance reduction to allow grass to grow and encourage wildflowers. Some areas will have different bulb and flower planting and bee seed-bomb activity has taken place to create wildflower meadows. Trees and shrubs will maximise the environment for bees along with longstanding planting. There will now be no herbicide spraying in parks.
Working restrictions mean the council’s parks and open spaces are not receiving the high levels of maintenance they would ordinarily, with only essential upkeep undertaken. During this time, there has been reduced mowing of the grass which would usually be kept very short.
This has meant an even wider adoption of the council’s plan to adopt bee-friendly habitats in every neighbourhood. Before lockdown, many locations in Nottingham had been identified for mowing reduction to improve the habitats for bees and other pollinating insects. Fewer mowers also reduces carbon emissions, contributing towards carbon reduction. The City Council is aiming for Nottingham to be carbon neutral by 2028, with much underway or in the pipeline to achieve this.
Another effect from lockdown is the heightened interest in the environment and local wildlife across all ages – from schoolchildren as part of home schooling to pensioners isolating and taking a break in their back gardens.
Wildflowers – often thought of as weeds, are a fantastic source of nectar for bees, butterflies, wasps and other pollinating insects. A dandelion for example can support 107 different insects and red clover can support 141. Areas that are left unmown can reveal many colourful flowers like daisies, knapweed, yarrow and foxgloves. The long grasses are great for butterflies, like Meadow Brown and Ringlet, and the longer vegetation supports ground beetles, ants and spiders, as well as places for hedgehogs, voles, mice, and birds to live and feed.
Councillor Sally Longford, Deputy Leader & Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, said: “We are so pleased to see a positive environmental outcome from the lockdown period and that the conditions created have really allowed us to launch our bee friendly programme so widely and successfully.
“The work now is to build on initiatives such as the City Nature challenge and to promote these spaces to the public, demonstrating how valuable they are. I would urge people to look for these spaces in their own neighbourhoods and to see their worth as rich areas of wildlife across the city.”
Relaxed mowing and the benefits to pollinators: