Building on the success of the new meadow opposite Hexham cemetery, we will look for opportunities to make more of our grassland more wildlife friendly. We will always do this in a way which ensures that these areas look cared for rather than abandoned. Our approach will always be to ensure grass is cut and collected at least once a year (unless specifically chosen as an area of developing scrub/woodland) and that all long grass areas or meadows should have close mown edges to retain neatness in our beautiful town.
We’ve picked up a number of projects around Hexham by listening to the concerns of local residents and their desire to see more wildlife-friendly management of their open spaces.
In Priestlands we are working with members of the Priestlands Residents Association to consider how to introduce more wildflowers and wildlife into the recreation ground – Priestlands Park. So far we have worked with Northumberland County Council to let an area of grass grow during the summer as a meadow. We have been watching to see what comes up, and plan to plant more wildflowers in these areas in the autumn. Further work will be subject to consultation with residents this summer.
At the Highford Estate, where there is a wonderful open area where the grass and wildflowers have been allowed to grow unchecked for over a decade, we are taking a slightly different approach. Here the danger to wildflower diversity comes from the lack of any management at all – eventually the more delicate wildflowers like bird’s foot trefoil and northern marsh orchid will succumb to the dominance of coarser grasses and hogweed and eventually scrub and trees. Whilst trees, and especially scrub, are very important to wildlife, we have seen the need for some grassland management here to retain a diversity of habitats, including wildflowers. Accordingly we persuaded the Council to cut some of the long grass areas either annually or biennially and to remove the hay cut. We put these proposals to residents at a recent open day in 2021 attended by more than 80 people, and received a unanimous vote of approval for these and other minor management proposals. The results of this consultation and our responses to your comments are published here.
Unfortunately the Council found they were unable to find a contractor to do this work. SInce then, however, we have persuaded the Council to buy come equipment which will allow the to cut and collect long grass. THis will be used over the whole county, and will allow for much more meadow management in future. Subsequently we have tweaked our proposals to suit this machinery, and our proposals can be found here.
In 2023 Northumberland County Council will be trialing a small additional area of long grassland at Hackwood Park, and meadow proposals for the Shaws Park have been accepted by Hexham Town Council and Northumberland County Council and will go ahead in September.