Photograph of daisies in the sunshine with overlayed text that reads; "Let It Grow # No Mow May" with white Urban green Newcastle logo in top right hand corner

For the 3rd year running, Urban Green Newcastle is participating in Plantlife‘s #NoMowMay with our very own ‘Let It Grow‘ campaign.  Why is this important?  Well, sometimes, less is more – and that is certainly true of mowing.  Letting grass grow just a little longer in May means MORE wildflowers, MORE bees and butterflies, and MORE carbon locked away.

With 33 parks across Newcastle, there is plenty of green space for both people AND wildlife which is why Urban Green Newcastle will ‘Let it Grow’ during May by relaxing grass cutting in selected areas across the 33 parks in our care.

What is ‘Let It Grow’?

Inspired by Plantlife’s #NoMowMay, ‘Let It Grow‘ is Urban Green Newcastle’s campaign throughout May to help encourage wildlife. 

Plantlife is a charity committed to protecting and restoring wild plants and fungi across towns, cities and countryside, while connecting more people with nature.  They introduced their #NoMowMay campaign in response to the devastating loss in the past 100 years of around 97% flower-rich meadows across the UK.  But with over 20 million gardens in the UK, Plantlife say that “even the smallest grassy patches add up to a significant proportion of our land which, if managed properly, can deliver enormous gains for nature, communities and the climate.”. 

By asking people to let grass grow during the month of May, there can be more essential early nectar for bees and butterflies, as well as food and shelter for other wildlife such as birds and hedgehogs.  

Photograph of 3 open buttercups in the sunshine amongst long grass in Heaton Park.
Photograph of a bumble bee resting on blooming, bright purple lavender in Leazes Park, Newcastle.

What does it mean for wildlife?

Longer grass is not neglected… it’s just having a wild time. Busy becoming a fantastic mini sanctuary, bursting with life supporting all kinds of native species. 

Thanks to early research by the Natural History Society of Northumbria as part of their Gosforth’s Wild Web project Gosforth’s Wild Web – Natural History Society of Northumbria (nhsn.org.uk), we already know there are over 10 different species of urban bee and over 15 different species of butterflies across Newcastle’s green spaces.  We hope that people will be encouraged during ‘Let It Grow‘ to get out and about and send in more sightings of our native wildlife throughout the parks.

For example, spiders use long grass for spinning webs to catch flies. Their presence, in turn, attracts more animals like blackbirds and hedgehogs.

Another of the beasties benefitting from long uncut grass are moth caterpillars which are blue tits’ favourite food, (so much so, that a family of blue tits can eat up to 10,000 caterpillars before the young leave the nest!) so keep an eye out for blue tits too!

A photograph of green foliage with a single yellow dandelion in the sunshine in Heaton park, Newcastle. A small black bug sits on the flower.

And it’s not just the bugs, birds and mammals… Although they breed in ponds, amphibians spend much of their time on land and will also likely benefit from areas of long grass. Providing a damp resting place, areas of long grass can act as a refuge for amphibians such as frogs and newts too, with the shade and moisture keeping them cool in the drier months of the year.

If you want to know more about how important it is to support these species, why not download some of the resources below from the Natural History Society of Northumbria and Plantlife to play your own ‘Let It Grow’ bingo and see what you can spot throughout the city’s parks this Spring.

You could also use mobile apps like Merlin ID to help you identify bird species through birdsong when you’re out and about in the parks…

What does it mean for me?

Newcastle’s parks are in huge demand.  From park runs to dog walks, from football games to picnics.  So how can we accommodate wildlife while meeting the needs of park users?

We have listened to feedback, including that of our community engagement panel ‘Urban Green Connect’, and worked with students from Northumbria University to get more advice on what is done elsewhere (you can read their report here.)  As a result, this year we are trialling a more varied approach to our relaxed mowing regime in May.

While exact regimes and mow times will depend upon the weather, most grassy areas across the estate will have a mow late in April or very early May. Mowing will then be relaxed during the rest of May, apart from sports pitches and play areas which will continue to be cut.  In addition, certain areas in some parks will have mow-paths and mow zones to keep pathways clear, neaten edges, and allow access to sports pitches.  Please see the maps below for an example as to how this might look.

Our ranger and community gardener team will continue to work as hard as ever, carrying out essential tasks to keep the green spaces beautiful, including tree and plant management, litter picking and repairs.

Photographs of nettles in flower in Armstrong Park, Newcastle.
Graphic illustration of Heaton Park, Harbottle Park and Paddy Freeman's park in Newcastle. Green background with white outline depicting mown and non-mown areas within the park.
Photograph of variety of meadow flowers and long grass in the sunshine taken in Leazes Park, Newcastle upon Tyne

What will it look like?

The appearance of long grass and meadows will vary, depending upon factors such as seed mix, soil type, and its original use (for example, is it usually mown amenity grass or an area of grassland within a nature reserve?)  Some will look colourful, others may be a glorious mix of daisies, buttercups and clover, while grass varieties may dominate other areas – beautiful in their own right, but fewer flowers.  But while their appearance may vary – they all have value to wildlife.

At Urban Green Newcastle, we have been busy building up the range of species within our grassland, not only for wildlife but to increase colour, texture and interest to the parks.  So do look out for more unusual plants and flowers.  Some of these areas will be cut once May is over (such as the green space in front of the pavilion in Heaton Park now a low growing wildflower mix), while other areas will be allowed to grow long throughout the summer, providing even more benefits for wildlife (such as the wildflower strip beneath the blossom circle in Exhibition Park).  Do take time to visit them and see if you can spot any visiting pollinators, using the resources above.

Even where areas are to be cut once May is over, it may take us some time to carry out the extra cuts in June – especially if the weather is against us. So please be patient – and in the meantime, enjoy the visiting bees and butterflies.