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Kitty Thompson: Why people are giving up mowing for May

Kitty Thompson, CEN's Nature Programme Manager

No Mow May is perhaps the easiest environmental effort to get involved with. There is one rule to this annual campaign: do not mow your lawn during the month of May.

For some, seeing dandelions and other ‘weeds’ spring up and having to leave them will be a challenge. But look no further than this year’s Chelsea Flower Show to discover that weeds are in fashion.

Not mowing delivers benefits to local wildlife. The humble dandelion is a precious source of nectar to bees, butterflies and other passing pollinators. However, despite being regarded as our most undervalued wildflower, dandelions are vilified, with TV adverts regularly promoting their eradication.

This is indicative of a larger story. The UK has lost 97% of its flower meadows since the 1930s, making them one of our rarest habitats. This has a knock-on effect for insects by removing their homes and nourishment, in turn spelling danger for larger creatures such as hedgehogs.

It is becoming increasingly clear that our collective desire to save beloved species like bees is incompatible with our pursuit of perfectly manicured lawns and the removal of wildflower-rich habitats. But what can be done about it?

Individual actions like not mowing your lawn in May and planting wildflower seeds can provide places of respite for creatures big and small. With an estimated 20 million gardens across the UK, this would collectively create a patchwork of nature-rich spaces.

Local authorities can make a big difference with projects like Buckinghamshire Council’s Wilder Road Verges, and by creating an ambitious Local Nature Recovery Strategy to boost biodiversity across the whole community.

Nationally, the government should accept calls from CEN MPs to create a new land designation known as the “Wildbelt”. This would give legal protection to areas set aside for nature’s recovery and provide biodiverse corridors for wildlife to move between habitats.

We all have a role to play in nature’s recovery. For individuals who want to do their bit, committing not to mow your garden for a whole month, and taking the opportunity to notice the new wildlife this might attract, is a great place to start.


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