Exasperation as ‘backing’ to protect wild verges comes too late for Amble

Posted on 27th July 2023 | in Clubs + Societies , Community , Local Councils , Northumberland County Council

Northumberland County Council (NCC) says it is looking at ways to protect grass verges, just as a local group claims heavy handed mowing has destroyed 70 percent of a section of wildflower verge.

Northumberland County Council has been criticicised for destroying wildflowers on Rotary Way.

Council Leader Glen Sanderson recently visited a Hexham school to see an environmental project which included sewing wildflowers on verges. Afterwards he said, “There has been a lot of talk in the community about the mowing of our verges and I wanted to see first-hand the benefits they bring to our environment. While there is a need to cut verges for road safety reasons, protecting the natural environment is something very close to my heart and I will be exploring ways the Council can further protect these corridors for nature.”

Sadly, for Amble and Warkworth, this expression of support comes too late for two wildlife areas.

After complaints that the wildflowers along the A1068 Rotary Way were obstructing visibility for users of an adjoining access track, NCC mowed along a 100 metre section, provoking exasperation from the Rotary Club of Amble and Warkworth.

A spokesperson for the Rotary Club told The Ambler they had not been made aware of any visibility issues, which if they had, they might have been able to address. As a result of the mowing, Rotary say they are unlikely to replant the area.

Rotary Way project

The spokesperson said: “In 2010, the Rotary Club of Amble and Warkworth made the development of Rotary Way, a project. To this end we have planted 20,000 crocus and 50 primroses on the sea side of the Way, and four hundred yards at each end of the Way have been planted as wildflower meadows.

“We have had the full support of NCC in our endeavours and have been awarded a National Rotary prize in recognition of the way our input has improved the environment. We have successfully applied for thousands of pounds in grants to facilitate the project and have had invaluable help from local farmers, seed merchants and also Rotarians who have given many hours of their time in preparing planting and maintaining the wildflower meadows.

“The last part of the development of the Way, a 100 metre length at the Warkworth end of the Way was completed in 2021 and the first growth appeared last year (remember the poppies). This year saw the first flush of wild flowers.”

However, The Ambler understands that NCC received complaints that the wildflowers were obstructing the visibility for users of a track which joins Rotary Way near a bend in the busy road.

The Rotary spokesperson said: “In response to the complaints, NCC have cut down all the wildflowers between the trackway and the apex of the bend looking towards Amble, and on the other side of the trackway looking towards Warkworth, have cut a four metre strip of the wildflowers up to the stone planter in front of the 30mph sign. This has destroyed seventy per cent of the wildflower meadow at the Warkworth end of Rotary Way.

“The mowing took place in late June, before the wildflowers had set seed and using a mower which mulches grass into a pulp. As a consequence these wildflower areas will never recover and will rapidly return to wild grass.

“With a bit of notice we could have changed the nature of the of the wildflowers so they were thinner and lower, thereby improving the sight-line between the trackway and the problematic bend in the road.

“As it is, it is just not worth our time and expense to continue to maintain the small bit of wild flower meadow at the Warkworth end of Rotary Way, especially with NCC’s approach to the wildflowers which were there.”

Mowing on Percy Drive

Elsewhere in Amble, another patch of land has seen the council mowers cut down wildflowers and grasses. Reader Hugh Tindle has written to The Ambler complaining that an area on Percy Drive had been intensively mowed in the middle of June, and by doing so, NCC had destroyed a habitat full of wildlife. See letters p6.
NCC was contacted for comment, but have yet to respond.

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