Backlash over attack on overgrown grass verges

'Astonished by support' ... Cllr Jo Carter
'Astonished by support' ... Cllr Jo Carter

The Chair of Wildflower Lewes has hit back at criticism made of overgrown grass verges in the town.

Cllr Jo Carter said she was “shocked” by Cllr Graham Mayhew’s attack – he had described the verges as “an appalling advertisement for our town and a safety hazard”.

She said she was concerned Lewes Town Council is considering spending money on a more intense mowing regime that will “destroy” wildflowers and wildlife verges.

Cllr Carter, a Green Party member who serves on Lewes District Council, said the community group Wildflower Lewes had over the last few years worked to make many of the town’s verges and green spaces bloom with wildflowers.

This had been done in conjunction with the district council and East Sussex Highways.

She said: “Wildflower Lewes has supported the councils in reducing mowing to encourage wildflowers. At the district council, the project complemented a policy to stop using pesticides in our green spaces.

“Wildflower Lewes volunteers have helped plant wildflowers and monitor the verges and wildflower patches. Last year’s monitoring found a very wide range of flowers including little yellow birds-foot-trefoils, bright blue vipers bugloss, and common purple orchids.

“The group has also found that many people in Lewes are really delighted to have beautiful wildflowers growing on their verges.

“We started a few years ago by asking people at local events to nominate places in town that they wanted to see full of wildflowers – and were astonished by the amount of positive support in Lewes for more flowers and more space for wildlife in our town. We’d love to see more wild verges in Lewes.”

Cllr Carter continued: “The East Sussex Highways decision to change to mowing twice a year was the right one for wildlife and people, instead of shaving all our verges to within an inch of their lives.

“If this mowing twice a year is supplemented with plug planting, and strimmed edges to keep it neat, we could have all the wildlife benefits and some neater and prettier displays of blooms that people can enjoy.”

She added: “Greeting visitors with wildflowers is surely the best way to welcome people to our beautiful town, and show we are a forward-looking place that has learnt to live with our wildlife.”