HIGHWAYS England has put its grass cutting operation along the Charmouth bypass on hold, following complaints from village residents that it would ruin the current display of wildflowers.
Residents called for a more sympathetic approach to management of the grass verges along a section of the A35, just outside Charmouth, to allow the extensive and diverse array of wild flowers to be enjoyed by all, to continue to provide essential nectar to bees and other insects, and to allow the flowers to reseed in due course.
The campaign was led by resident John Calder, with support from Charmouth Parish Council, the Charmouth Traders Association and Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Mr Calder said the south bank of the bypass was “flailed without mercy” last week, with the wildflowers completely strimmed, but when contractors returned to cut the north bank he protested and convinced them to leave the flowers for the time being.
Mr Calder said Highways England had “refused to engage with the local Charmouth community”.
He said: “Despite repeated attempts made by the Charmouth Parish Council, the Charmouth Traders Association and others, Highways England simply remain silent on the subject and their main contractor Balfour Beatty appears to be adamant that the wildflowers have to go. No rational reasons are being offered.”
Highways England has now reported that that it is reviewing the timing of this year’s cut.
Highways England spokesperson Emma Bazeley said: “Our attention to landscape maintenance and cutting has promoted the growth of wildflowers, and less invasive weeds, along the A35 Charmouth Bypass.
“Taking the wildflower period into consideration, we are reviewing the timing of this year’s cut and have currently suspended our grass cutting operation at this location. Dependent on conditions, we are expecting to resume after this wildflower period but before less desirable plants start to flourish.
“We and our managing agents have communicated our methods of grassland management and our course of action to the local MP, Charmouth Parish Council and residents.”
He commented: “Several local residents have received responses that the flailing is being delayed but only by two or three weeks so Highways England still plans to eliminate everything by the end of June with no credible reason given. There are other flowering species yet to emerge and there would therefore be nectar supplied for several weeks yet, if the flails and strimmers were kept at bay.”
Mr Calder said be believed the “drastic measure of flailing everything to a pulp” was to keep ragwort under control, which had been left to “get out of control” over the years.
In the intervening period, while the flails and strimmers are withheld, there is a really good opportunity to restore faith and explain why they feel they have to resume flailing before the end of July, say,” he added.
“It really is hard to understand why it might be regarded as necessary. I have counted 1,000 orchids that will be removed when the flail comes and the orchids are just the tip of the iceberg.”