We are responsible for grass cutting in most areas across Chelmsford.
We manage and maintain approximately 692 hectares of grassland. This includes:
- local nature reserves
- hay meadows
- sports grounds
We have 12 teams of parks and grounds staff who cut the grass in these areas. They cut over 150,000 square metres of grass in a four-week period.
Each area of grassland has a different type:
- amenity grassland (open grass covered area, such as a park, playing field and green)
- grassland habitats (including acid, magnesium and chalk downland)
- agricultural pasture
- waste grasslands
- common land
How often we cut the grass in each area ties into our climate change priorities and goals.
There are some grassland areas that we do not look after. Some grassland in Chelmsford is owned and looked after by:
- Essex County Council
- private landowners
- housing developers
If a grassland is on a motorway or trunk road, the grass is cut by National Highways.
We only cut our grass during growing season, which is between March and September/October.
We don't have a set period between cuts. but as a rough guide, we cut roughly every four weeks during growing season. We give all grass areas one final cut at the end of the season.
We stop cutting grass for two weeks in the summer, between July and August. This gives us time to focus on cutting back hedges from footpaths.
Our schedule can change and depends on:
- wet weather conditions, which prevent us from going out
- long periods of dry weather, which may mean we don't need to cut the grass
- the risk of causing damage to the environment or our equipment
- the risk of doing the job safely
If we are unable to mow an area, we will monitor it and resume cutting as soon as the conditions improve.
In very wet weather, some areas can become waterlogged. To prevent damage to the grass and our mowing machines, we avoid cutting these areas until they have dried out.
During prolonged dry weather grass growth is minimal, so we suspend our mowing operations to avoid damaging the grass roots and soil.
We cut open spaces, verges, and sports fields next to housing areas at different rates, to meet any maintenance agreements we may have.
We cut some areas of grass much less often to allow grasses to flower and encourage biodiversity.
These areas include:
- grass on highway verges, where suitable
- non-sponsored roundabouts
- around the bases of trees
- many open spaces
We leave areas in our parks to grow or cut later in the season to promote wildlife. These areas contribute to our success with the Green Flag Award, whose judges have praised our park’s variety of habitats.
How we treat different tall grass areas
We treat different areas in specific ways, depending on criteria for that area. For example, we cut most meadow grass once a year, when the wildflowers have set seed.
We will not cut some areas at all, although we may cut a path through for walking.
You may see that we leave some grass verges and green spaces long in the middle but cut short of the edges.
In meadow areas, cutting narrow strips along the edge of hard footpaths will keep them clear. Short cut grass footpaths allow people to walk through areas of longer meadow grass with wildflowers. Cutting in this way shows that the longer grass is being left intentionally.
We need to cut some strips along side roads to maintain sight-lines for traffic.
In areas where daffodils and tulips have been flowering, we leave the grass until six weeks after the flowers have finished blooming. This is to ensure they return the following spring.
If we get reports of rare wildflowers, birds or animals, we won't cut the grass in that area. We will not cut the grass in this area for a specific time, such as the end of nesting season.
We have reduced our mowing and grass cutting to improve the habitat for:
Pollinating insects have been in decline for decades due to habitat loss. We want to create wildlife-friendly areas, rich in nectar, by mowing selected areas less and allowing these abundant grasslands to grow. This also helps to increase the amount of carbon captured by our green spaces.
We select these locations by looking for areas large enough to provide an environmental benefit, without presenting any safety issues.
We will monitor these areas to remove litter and control any invasive plant species.
You can find more information about what we are doing for the environment on our Love Your Chelmsford website.
The effects of tall grass on wildlife
Tall grass provides a range of benefits to wildlife, such as providing:
- seed heads
- areas to hide, hunt and reproduce
- moisture for amphibians and small animals
- increased insect population which feeds birds, bats and owls
We cut most places using a machine called a flail towed on the back of a tractor or situated on the front of a ride on mower. This equipment cuts the grass into lots of small pieces.
When we cut grass, we leave the cuttings on the ground. Our equipment uses special blades that shred the grass finely. This grass blows into the surrounding turf, helping to return nutrients to the soil and retain moisture.
We make sure to clear nearby hard surfaces.
We only remove grass cuttings from biodiversity-rich grassland, such as:
- flowering lawns
- wildflower bee road areas
- high maintenance ornamental lawns
- bowling greens
Removing the cuttings is good for wildflowers because it:
- prevents the build-up of dead vegetation which can smother delicate plants
- leaves more exposed ground to allow seeds to grow
- reduces the fertility of soil, which slows down the growth of nutrient-loving grasses that choke wildflowers and finer grasses