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The Nature isn’t Neat project worked with the local community and brought together 5 local authorities to manage green spaces for nature through the Gwent Green Grid Partnership.
Monmouthshire County Council have also worked to empower operators through training and took innovative steps to manage grass cuttings.
Nature isn’t Neat is an approach that encourages us all to alter the way we manage grassland on our verges, open spaces and parks to benefit nature.
The project’s primary objectives were to increase pollinators’ habitat, connect isolated habitats, and to start building a habitat network for nature to increase wildflower and pollinator diversity.
The key management principles is a single cut-and-collect in late August/Early September with an option for an additional cut-and-collect if needed.
Initially piloted by Monmouthshire County Council, but now covers the whole Gwent region, it is funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities fund.
The lessons learned from the ‘Nature isn’t Neat’ pilot led to a successful bid to the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government for a grant that enabled the purchase of cut-and-collect machinery.
Initially a three-year project which ran from March 2020 to March 2023, ‘Nature isn’t Neat’ received new funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund to continue embedding this new green space management across Gwent as part of the Gwent Green Grid Partnership (GGGP).
The partnership includes the 5 local authorities of Gwent (Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport, and Torfaen), as well as Natural Resources Wales, Forest Research and Severn Wye Energy Agency.
‘Nature isn’t Neat’ has worked with communities across Gwent to raise awareness of what wildflower-rich habitats can do for biodiversity and our mental and physical wellbeing. The project has hosted events, workshops and created five mosaic sculptures, with the help of local residents, to inspire more people to value the nature we can find in our communities.
During the summer of 2020, ‘Nature isn’t Neat’ conducted a public survey, gathering views from residents about the new grassland management. The results were overwhelmingly positive and provided strong evidence of support for our approach and countered the small minority of negative comments:
Monmouthshire County Council has invested in teams on the ground to achieve best practice for creating wildflower-rich habitats. Support has included workshops, training days, and equipment testing. This has enabled operators to understand and appreciate the opportunity green spaces and road verges can provide for nature.
By building skills and knowledge in the green space workforce, a more tailored approach to management can be taken which delivers better outcomes for wildlife. The operations team can also champion the change for nature within the community by answering questions from the public.
Monmouthshire County Council have looked at innovative uses for their grass cuttings that will further improve biodiversity whilst reducing carbon emissions from their operations.
Recent funding has enabled investment in a mulching and composting machine to convert the grass cuttings into reusable compost to support planted shrubs and trees.
In certain cases, the grass cuttings, and therefore the nutrients and fertility, are displaced directly to the hedgerow or a woodland strip. Lower fertility in grassy areas reduces the number of cuts needed and increases the biodiversity by reducing the vigour of the most competitive plants.
Trials have also taken place to determine if the grass cuttings can be used to create renewable resources through processes such as anaerobic digestion.
Visit How to Manage Grass Cuttings to learn more.
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