Letting the grass grow to aid wildlife and cut emissions

As spring approaches it will soon be time for Oxford City Council and ODS to start the annual grass cutting programme.

The Council is publishing a review of the programme introduced throughout 2021 to allow a number of grass verges in the city to grow long, to promote biodiversity. The Council has taken the learnings from the trial and is committing to extend the long grass verges programme for at least a further year, with some amendments.

The long grass verges programme arose from the Council’s 2020 Oxford Biodiversity Action Plan that set out work already done to support biodiversity in our green spaces in recent years, and identified a wide range of further habitat improvement projects and environmental initiatives. The review recommended changing the way some grass verges in the city are managed to increase their potential to support biodiversity, including creating wildflower areas. Prior to 2021, ODS mowed the verges every 15 working days between March and October with cuttings left in place.

Verges that are cut regularly may be perceived to be neater, but they have a low biodiversity value. Rich wildflower areas take time to develop, but reap rewards by creating viable wildlife habitats with good food and egg laying opportunities for insects.

And aside from helping wildlife, changes to the way verges are maintained have helped reduce CO2 emissions by 10 tonnes a year. Cutting the verges only once a year instead of twice a month has a big impact on the Council’s carbon footprint and by vehicle emissions.

Where there are highway junctions the Council will ensure that sight lines will be maintained for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Councillor Lubna Arshad, Cabinet Member for Parks and Waste Reduction, said: “Prior to 2021 the Council maintained several of long grass verges, for example Grenoble and Marston Ferry Roads, that received one cut in late summer. As we now move into spring, we are looking to increase the number with the verges that will be left long until late summer, with a tangible benefit for wildlife and the environment.

“This initiative sits alongside the City Council’s Urban Forest Strategy, which aims to protect, manage and enhance the trees and hedgerows in the city, also known as Oxford’s Urban Forest, and celebrate their environmental and social benefits.”

“Some may think that our grass verges will appear less well kept, but allowing the grass to grow brings more colour and interest to our city. We need to change our perception so we come to see that a patch of wild flowers or stinging nettles buzzing with insects is as more beautiful than short grass.”

 The full list of road verges that will be allowed to grow wild throughout 2022 are:

  • Marston Road
  • Headington Road
  • Cherwell Drive
  • Marston Ferry Road
  • Lonsdale/Marston Ferry Track
  • Marsh Lane
  • Eastern Bypass
  • The Roundway
  • Bayswater Road
  • Elsfield Was
  • Sunderland Avenue
  • Abingdon Road
  • Awgar Stone (behind hedge)
  • Horspath Road
  • Church Cowley Road
  • Watlington Road
  • Genoble Road
  • Long Lane
  • Cardinal Close (bank 0nly)
  • Oxford Road Bypass
  • Rose Hill/Henley Avenue

The roads that were included in last year’s programme but will be mown regularly this year, following residents’ feedback are:

  • Warneford Lane
  • Old Marston Road
  • Oxford Road
  • Headley Way
  • Barracks Lane