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  • Writer's pictureEmily Haysom

A great piece of turf

Albrecht Dürer, 'Great Piece of Turf', 1503 watercolour

Albrecht Dürer in his 1503 watercolour caught the rich variety held within a small patch of turf. I have been delighted to see a more relaxed approach to lawn maintenance in public spaces in the lovely city of Ely. Maintenance teams are increasingly aware and proactive regarding supporting wildlife and biodiversity, with mowing regimes that reflect this.

The open space in one large housing development in Ely has had early displays of daffodils, giving way to daisies and dandelions in April and May, and now to swathes of clover and grasses. Areas of grass are cut short for kids to play football and do cartwheels, 'ribbons' of long grass are left between trees to provide a low level wildlife corridor. It is a popular open space where children play out, where parents walk kids to school and sit on benches chatting, where people walk their dogs. At grass level, the pollinators have had month after month of forage....

Elsewhere in Ely a similar approach has led to the sightings (and protection) of rare bee orchids. People are beginning to value the seedbank beneath our feet.

Another local green space, I'll call it Tidyville, where in recent years vocal residents objected and took the Council to task for not mowing enough, sports a more clipped, emerald green sward, inhabited by neither people nor much wildlife. I presume its value is as a 'view' to be looked at. Wherever people are likely to sit on grass or kick a ball around, a velvet green lawn can be gorgeous and inviting. But even these spaces have edges and corners that can be left long.

We need to critique the Picturesque notion that the landscape is merely something beautiful in our 'view'. It is a living breathing ecosystem, both for ourselves and for wildlife, particularly bees and other pollinators that are facing extinction from climate change; need I add - pollinators on which we depend to pollinate our crops. We are symbiotic. Our landscapes should accommodate us all.

photo:Emily Haysom

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