Council slip-up results in loss of orchids from roadside verge
PUBLISHED: 13:01 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:05 16 August 2019
A farmer has hit out at Suffolk County Council after its contractors flailed one of its roadside nature reserves too early - destroying its wild flowers.
The roadside verge at Acton, near Sudbury, is home to a range of "interesting" plant species, including wild liquorice and pyramidal orchids, and is one of 106 roadside nature reserves around the county.
The county council described the slip-up by its contractors as "disappointing".
David Shropshire of Bassetts Farm, Acton, near Sudbury, said the county council "saw fit" to take over the roadside verge by his farm several years ago to create the roadside nature reserve (RNR).
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"Since they took over control, the amount of rare flowers, principally pyramidal orchids, has declined each year, culminating in the disastrous decision this year to flail the RNR in early May, and then to compound the total mismanagement of the site, they returned about three weeks later and flailed the site again," he said.
"The result is, for the first time in the last 20-plus years, there are no pyramidal orchids at all on this site."
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: "Regrettably it does look like this roadside nature reserve was cut in June by one of our contractors. Ordinarily, it is due to be cut in September. The early cutting will have prevented the pyramidal orchids from flowering this year, but should not have killed the plant so they should flower again next year.
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"This site was surveyed in 2017 and offers a range of interesting plant species, including wild liquorice and the pyramidal orchids. We will ensure it is resurveyed next spring to check that it is recovering fully. We have 106 roadside nature reserves in Suffolk and are continually looking to improve their protection and management so it is always disappointing when something like this happens."
Contrary to the "lazy and ill-informed" assumption that farmers are totally to blame for the decline in wild flowers and plants, over the last 25 years, Mr Shropshire said he and other farmers had made big efforts to set aside areas on their farms to enable them to thrive.
"It is annoying that random figures are bandied about concerning loss of habitat, when in fact for years now many farmers have been setting aside areas of their farms to try and actively encourage wild flowers, and pollen and nectar plants," he said.
"Incidentally, some of this is done within agreed environmental schemes with the government, which they are extremely tardy at paying for. I entered a scheme four years ago, with all the associated costs of establishment having to be paid up-front, and have just received a payment which I should have had nearly three years ago."