LETTER: Roadsides are rich in natural species

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Thank you, Burgess Hill Town Council for allowing the verges and other grassy areas to remain uncut for longer this year.

I regularly walk to the town centre along Queen Elizabeth Avenue, and the number of species of wildflowers this year has been amazing, and a delight to the eye.

There were two species of violets in early spring, Lady’ Smock, three species of buttercups, ox-eye daisies, lesser stitchwort, red and white clovers, mallow, and even a patch of rarely seen rest harrow, clinging to the kerbside near The Brow. I could continue this list...

There have probably been complaints about ‘untidiness’, and recently, I heard that there were plans to use herbicides on verges to ‘get rid of those weeds’. Are there not plenty of fields in the Green Circle for wildflowers to grow? Yet most of these fields show the impoverishment caused by the use of herbicides in the past to ‘improve’ pasture, therefore they tend to be far less species rich than the roadsides.

The verges are a refuge for increasingly rare wildflowers, and 97 percent of Traditional Hay Meadows have been lost within the past 50 years. What we now see, in places such as Queen Elizabeth Avenue, is the last vestige of The Brow Field, with its wildflowers. The loss of flowers has a knock-on effect, including a loss of food source for bees and other insects, resulting in a decline in birds and other creatures higher up in the food chain. Can we not put up with a little untidiness for a few weeks?

In the Churchyard at St John the Evangelist, Burgess Hill, formerly Warner’s Farm, we have a spring and summer conservation project, delaying grass cutting in summer, and, with careful management, such as cutting when the flowering period is over, tidiness can be maintained. Many people, especially those old enough to remember flower-rich fields, have spoken to me about their joy and appreciation about such conservation initiatives.

Sheila Preston

Payton Drive, Burgess Hill

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