Rewilding in North Somerset

We have agreed to begin rewilding areas in North Somerset. This means we will be creating new habitats to enable wildlife to flourish as well as helping to address climate change. This will include planting trees and letting some areas of grass grow longer.

We’ve been looking at different parks, verges and open spaces that we own throughout the area to see if they’d be suitable for rewilding.

We’re focusing on areas of grass that are closely mown every few weeks. This is called amenity grass. We manage around 2.5 million square metres of amenity grass.

We are not rewilding to save money – we are doing it to enhance the benefits of our natural environment for our residents and wildlife.

Supporting our biodiversity action plan

Lots of the work planned in our rewilding project will support our biodiversity action plan.

Less grass mowing will support insect and bee populations, while reducing hedge trimming will allow hedges to flower and produce fruit.

Planting more trees alongside existing woodland will allow wildflowers, birds, insects and soil microbes to spread into the new areas, providing more flowering and fruit producing plants.

We’ve created a map so you can see the rewilding locations that have been identified in your local area.

Reducing our carbon footprint

We declared a climate emergency at the beginning of 2019. Since then, we’ve been looking at ways to become carbon neutral.

Planting more trees and reducing the frequency that we cut grass across North Somerset will help to reduce our carbon footprint.

Tree planting 2020-21

In 2019 we shared our plans for rewilding and carried out a wide-ranging consultation which introduced maps pointing out where we intended to plant trees and allow tall grass to grow. Both of these activities will help more plants, insects and mammals to flourish helping to improve biodiversity.

We are continuing our rewilding project this winter when we will be aiming to plant around 20,000 trees on our open spaces.

If you would like more information about a particular site, please contact us.

Subject to the weather and the availability of the trees, spirals and canes planting will begin from Monday 2 November.

There will be opportunities to volunteer to help plant trees again this year. With current COVID-19 guidelines in place, we will be running a pre-booking system as spaces will be limited to ten volunteers per session.

This will also enable us to collect track and trace information. There will also be additional information that we will need to collect in line with our health and safety policies.

November 2020 tree planting

Due to health and safety restrictions relating to coronavirus you will need to pre-register for sessions. You will need to complete a form for every session that you wish to attend.

Volunteers will be limited on site to ensure social distancing and safe working practices. We will be unable to provide equipment this year so please bring gloves, a spade and wear appropriate clothing for the weather.

Make sure you read the two risk assessments as part of the signing up process - we will double-check with you on the day. We will also ask you for a little bit more information when you sign up for track and trace, health and safety and insurance purposes.

Make sure you complete the form for everyone in your family or group that will be attending a session to ensure we do not exceed the number of people allowed on site.

We will be adding sessions to revisit some of the areas from last year's planting at a later date.

Consultation

All areas that were identified were open to consultation from November 2019 to January 2020 and we've had over 500 responses, with the majority of comments supportive towards the project.

Following feedback from the community and further discussions, some areas were removed and some were altered. All other areas were accepted into our rewilding programme.

Planting trees

We’ll be planting around 50,000 young trees across North Somerset. Trees provide a habitat for a wide range of wildlife, giving both food and shelter. They also capture carbon in their leaves and in the wood for as long as they are alive.

Introducing tall grass

We’ll be reducing how often we mow grass in some areas to allow the grass to grow.

This taller grass will allow a range of grass species to develop, increasing the biodiversity benefits. Tall grass is just as important for wildlife as wild flowers. It gives animals shelter and somewhere to hunt, breed and feed.

We will cut most of this grass at the end of the flowering season – usually between August and October – and the cuttings will be left on site. The grass may be cut again in the spring if needed for biodiversity purposes.

Some of the tall grass areas may be left uncut to allow natural succession to take place, creating scrub. Scrub species will produce fruit and seeds as well as areas for birds to nest. If left for long enough this would turn into woodland.

Flower meadows

While tall grass will be the most common rewilding technique we use, areas for flower meadows will also be considered. These areas will be allowed to grow before being cut at the end of the flowering season. For flower meadows to be successful, they need poor soil. Unlike the tall grass areas, cuttings will be removed from flower meadows to allow the less dominant species to flourish.

Volunteering

We are working with a number of community groups and volunteers across North Somerset, however  there’s still a lot of work needed to make rewilding happen and we need your help.

If you’re interested in getting involved, please email rewilding.volunteering@n-somerset.gov.uk with your name and contact details.

Next year we will be looking for rewilding champions to help lead sessions within local areas including:

Tree management

  • weeding
  • watering
  • making sure the canes are kept on the trees until we need to remove them
  • removing canes
  • planting more trees

Grass management

  • surveying
  • developing meadow areas; seeding, removing grass cuttings

Rewilding concerns

We know people may have concerns about the effects of rewilding on their community, so here’s some information about ticks and rats that we hope will put your mind at rest.

Ticks

We have carefully chosen areas for tall grass and they will have areas of mown grass available around them so they can still be enjoyed without walking through the tall grass.

Ticks need to have a host animal, with the most common being deer. As most of our urban sites do not have deer or farm animals, the number of ticks should be low.

It is still important to be tick aware and to follow the general advice when you have been in tall grass areas.

Rats

More tall grass will not increase the number of rats in an area. Rats will colonise areas where there is dry shelter and a food source. Tall grass or trees do not provide the right type of shelter or food.

Design guidelines

Some of the sites that we’ve been considering are used for events and recreation so will continue to be managed as they are now with regular grass cutting.

Large amenity grass sites will be managed to provide both biodiversity and recreation.

Margins and pockets of tall grass will be created between mown areas and scrub, hedges and trees. This will create micro-climates and wildlife-safe zones across our amenity grass areas.

Wide verges that have little amenity or biodiversity value will be allowed to grow into tall grass.

Minimal changes will be made to formal parks where the grass is currently kept short.

We’ll consider all existing park furniture and memorial benches to make sure we maintain access and views.

We’ll only plant small trees on the south side of properties to minimise the amount of shade produced.

We’ll also be considering any conflict with utilities, direction of prevailing wind and ground preparations.

We’ll consider planting trees to make links with other sites with trees. This can enhance their biodiversity benefits.

Management considerations

A one metre strip of grass will be maintained next to all our roads and visibility points will always be maintained.

We’ll make sure pathways are cut through large areas of tall grass to maintain access for recreation. We’ll also maintain pathways between areas where trees have been planted to allow both access and the creation of glades.

We’ll also consider practical issues around machinery access and the quantities of cuttings that will be produced.

Time frames

Tree planting can only take pace in the winter months, so it will take us several years to plant all 50,000 trees.

Tall grass areas are much easier to introduce, but we will do it in phases to make sure we can programme any maintenance into our grounds management schedule. We aim to have established all new tall grass areas by 2022.