I had to do a double take driving up the Mansfield Road the other day – the City Council has dug up huge swathes of Woodthorpe Park leaving massive tracts of ploughed ground all around the football pitches on the bit nearest the road. What on earth are they doing, I wondered?
Then I remembered discussions with City Council Parks staff about plans for King George V Park in my own ward, and I’m pretty sure I know what they are doing.
They’re planting wildflower meadows.
This is not a new thing – they did it to my primary school when I was there in 1988. They weedkill a spot of grass, rotivate it to turn the earth up, and then sow wild flower seeds into the space.
They also did it to a roundabout in Chesterfield while I worked up there, and what I learned is that during the early phases, communication with local people is absolutely vital. It looks dreadful for the first few weeks. Then it looks untidy and overgrown, and everyone who sees it has real concerns about what the heck is going on.
Then, however, the flowers start to come out, and suddenly it all makes sense. The flowers look fantastic, and should be in bloom by the summer.
Come the autumn, all the Council has to do is essentially harvest the seeds, leaving enough onsite for the plants to come up again.
So, it looks scary now, but it really is a Good Thing. The wildflower meadows look lovely – particularly by the second summer. They allow for informal play. They’re excellent for biodiversity, wildlife and insects – in particular our troubled bee population that needs all the help it can get. And – whisper it – they’re cheap to maintain – they don’t even need mowing like the huge expanses of grass they replace.
So far I’ve seen the council preparing the ground in Woodthorpe Park and a little triangle of land in the Basford ward, near St Leo’s church, on the ring road. But more are planned across the city.
The scary thing is that the parks staff have told residents in my ward that the KGV Park will get one of the largest patches of meadow anywhere in the city. What they’ve done on Woodthorpe is already huge – so what they are planning for KGV must be enormous!