To Cut or Not to Cut

Grass cutting is like marmite. Love it or hate it - for some people we cut too often and for others we cut too slowly. Some people enjoy long grass and meadows and others see this as weed spreading wasteland. As a Parish Council, the grass cutting and grounds maintenance work is undertaken carefully to manage the resources that we have whilst also looking to promote opportunities for carbon soil sequestration.

Each year, the Parish Team is cutting on a cycle depending on the weather, however, they are cutting at a taller height than in previous years. This allows for daisies and buttercups to flourish in between cuts. There are also designated meadow grass areas on Shaw Forest Park, Shaw Ridge and Toothill Park. These are cut less and two are cut and baled at the end of the season. The Parish Council also adds low mow zones on a rotational basis. 

Bales underway


Why Cut at  All?

The Parish Council maintains public open spaces in West Swindon as part of a legal agreement with Swindon Borough Council. This requires the grass to be cut during the growing season (usually April to October). Even if the agreement did not exist, there are many challenges with leaving grass to grow. Once grass has grown for four weeks or more in the growing season, the next cut is very challenging as it puts stress on the mowers. Cutting longer grass creates a mulch that dries like a thatch on top of the grass and is slower to complete.

Managing long grass is generally more labour intensive so there is not the automatic financial saving that people usually think comes from cutting less. The machines are more likely to track grass across pavements and grass collects in the gutters. If grass isn't cut at all, brambles, nettles and weeds will take hold. The Parish Council does not have the machinery that could cope with cutting uncultivated land; specialist machinery would need to be purchased or hired in if a cut is required.

With Swindon's heavy clay soil, if areas are left unchecked, the wild growth will eventually reduce the quality of the grass altogether with bramble and thistle taking a natural hold. As a result, areas that are chosen to be natural meadows, need to have a long term commitment as it is not possible to restore it easily. To make steps towards a sustainability plan for West Swindon, the Parish Council has created natural meadows in Shaw Forest Park, Toothill Park and Shaw Ridge Linear Park.


What Does the Future Hold?

The Parish Council will continue to review its management of public open spaces. Some areas such as backlands and copses can lend themselves to wilding projects and we will review these as we move forward. More spaces will be considered for natural meadows and we will add low mow zones each year.

We also work with the Community Forest Team at Swindon Borough Council to increase the tree canopy in West Swindon.

There are always other options if the finances are there to support them. For example, the Parish Council could expand its workforce so that there is more strimming and cut grass is cleared away. It could also buy or hire machinery more suited to cut and collect long grass. These choices have a financial cost and would have an impact on the budget the Parish Council spends on managing public open space.

The Parish Council listens to the views of residents and will make decisions that it feels are in the best interests of West Swindon. There are public meetings with public question time every month, and all residents are encouraged and openly invited to ask questions, query the work schedule and propose alternatives. You can also contact your local parish councillors or ask the Parish Office to raise a question on your behalf.