Over the last 70 years 97% of wildflower meadows and roadside verges have been lost to industrial agricultural practices. Climate change and changing weather patterns all effect the population of invertebrates.
We have seen by volume a 60% decline in ‘bugs and beasts’
The Agricultural Bill puts emphasis on landowners to drive biodiversity gain and so the Parish Council are now taking leadership in this.
Lockdown has seen a greater use of footpaths and walking, with people connecting with their local area and networks. This is putting a lot of pressure on land and footpaths as we can see with the footpaths through Damgate wood and Weaver’s way. There is also more development and land being lost to houses and roads, this also increases the loss of biodiversity.
All of these things effect flowers and invertebrate populations, especially pollinators which effects the pollination of food. The lack of flowers and pollinators will affect wildlife populations and eventually will affect soil conditions and human food production .
Safety comes first though. For many verges, a regular late summer cut, and removal of clippings will keep the verge open, safe and thriving with interesting wildlife. Certain verges must be cut more regularly to maintain clear lines of visibility for road users – this is particularly crucial at junctions where a ‘visibility splay’ has to be maintained at all times.
Reducing the number of cuts and changing the timing of the cuts will be our starting point. Also, removing the cuttings will make the verge easier to manage as reduced nutrient levels means that slower growing wildflower species start to replace lush grass growth. Given the chance to spread, verges will be full of life again before too long. If verges have been neglected for a long time and are devoid of wildflower species, we can restore the habitat with locally sourced wildflower seed or green hay.
Acle Parish Council proposes that the parish of Acle become a ‘Wildlife Friendly Village’. We have identified areas of the village that the Parish Council and Norfolk County Council are responsible for that could be starting points for this project;
- Methodist dementia garden
- A1064 banking by Springfield site and raised beds
- Verge of Roman Wood opposite (Acle Lands Trust)
- BP garage r/about A47
- Small r/ about A47 slip road
- Verges both sides of slip road
- Verge fronting the ‘The Drive’
- P.C. owned play areas a 2 metre wildflower edging (boundaries)
- Rec Centre – various areas at boundaries especially
- Reinstatement of the green area at the library (springfields)
- Verges both sides of Leffins Lane
- Green space at entrance to Damgate Lane
- New and possibly old cemeteries (boundaries)
- Damgate wood
- Weavers Way Footpaths
- Acle Bridge Pub
- Acle High School and St Edmunds Primary school playing fields
- Work with Stephen Wright re Jolly’s Lane and Beighton road
- Work with Greater Anglia at the Acle Station and lanes to the station
- Acquire or rent marshes at end of Damgate Lane 3 or 4 are derelict and can be brought into meadow management by the Lands Trust
- Residents gardens
Please note that this proposal is based mainly on anecdotal evidence from the people we have spoken with so far and is not yet confirmed, no action will be taken until consent is received by the landowner.
We believe that Acle can start working towards this by establishing itself as a ‘Wildlife Friendly Village’ and have interconnecting lines of verges and lower strips to create ‘B lines’ for insects. Having lines means we can connect habitats. Using residents’ gardens widens this impact and if residents add a wildlife area in their garden, we will see a jump in biodiversity volume within the village.
Footpaths and verges in parish control are cut several times a year and are always accessible. The hedges that border the footpaths and the village lanes around Acle are mostly managed by the local landowners. These hedges support wildlife and ideally should be cut bi-annually in late winter once the birds have eaten the berries, creating a balance between safety and wildlife enhancements.
However, we believe that there are several verges which do not need to be cut from March until August and could be left for wildflowers to grow.
Potentially residents may think that these wildflower areas look untidy however we aim to signpost these areas as part of the ‘Wildlife Friendly Village’ and hope that residents soon enjoy the benefits of the ‘Beelines’
- Identify local stakeholders in the Parish and identify who will join a subgroup and task force
- Hold stakeholder event to get ideas and create work programme ideas
- Speak to Plant Life, Bug Life and Norfolk Wildlife Trust and asked for advice
- Talk to highways departments for their input
- Talk to Greater Anglia for their input at station
- Contact seed manufacturers for cost of free packet of sees for each household
- Draw up list of places of action. Areas where change of management and planting would make a difference and create a joined-up approach of verges and gardens
- Create summer of work to look to change mowing regime this year and scarify and plant seeds in autumn 2021 for 2022
- Identify mulching area where mown material can be deposited
- Create a long-term Bee Line plan for Acle and gain public support
- The Parish Council to discuss the above proposal
- To set up a B Line for Acle or Acle Wildlife Village group
- To identify a budget to get started
- To back the group in discussions with landowners and interested parties
- To change the Mowing regimes in Acle this year 2021
- To make available Acle Parish controlled Lands or verges
- To create a B Line for Acle section of the website
- To fund any extra materials the Lands Trust may require helping carry the project out until grants are found
Richard Powell with great help from David Burnett Feb 2021