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Southwark Green: In praise wildflower meadows

Have you noticed the wildflowers springing up wherever grass has been left unmown from my window I can see red poppies among drifts of white daisies, against the terracotta brick of the flats opposite, writes Eleanor Margolies…

Normally, before they have a chance to flower, the mowers cut them down in a great clatter and cloud of diesel exhaust. It is amazing to see what is already in the soil, given the chance to grow.

Meadows provide so much to look at and enjoy, with extraordinary variety in colour and shape, from tall sculptural seedheads to tiny hidden plants. More wildflowers means more food for insects, and more food for birds and bats. Flies and bees are also needed to pollinate fruit and veg on allotments and in urban orchards.

In just 40 years, we have lost around 60 per cent of the planet’s mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians –  it has been described as a ‘silent crisis’ in biodiversity. Creating and protecting habitats for nature within cities, including meadows, woods and scrub, is a vital part of the response, as described in Southwark Council’s excellent Biodiversity Action Plan.

Council parks and estate maintenance teams are working hard with reduced staffing at the moment, and that’s unlikely to ease soon, but although meadows do need management, they take less time and fuel than mowing lawns. There are new meadows in Peckham Rye Park and Camberwell Green, and room for many more on verges and estates. The carefully maintained wildflower meadows in Burgess Park are dazzling in summer and alive with vibrant purple and yellow blossom right through to late autumn, delighting the eye on grey days.

Take action for safer streets

I wrote last month about the need to make space for walking and cycling so we can keep safe while making essential trips and taking exercise.

Lambeth Council has released a clearly staged plan and has started to implement it; Southwark Council has invited residents to suggest ideas:

I have written to my councillors, describing my experiences (both good and bad) of walking and cycling in Southwark during the lockdown and asking them to work with council staff to act quickly for the sake of our health.

If you wish to do the same, you can find your councillor here


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