The "Don’t Mow, Let It Grow" message is simple. Small changes in the management of grasslands give large benefits to biodiversity.
And that helps all of us.
So the challenge for us and our project partners was to get people to embrace this change in a positive manner.
A three-year pilot project, Don’t Mow, Let It Grow is the biggest of its type in Northern Ireland. It is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. 38 grasslands have been managed by the Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council, in partnership with the Department for Infrastructure and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
In the early days, there was some resistance to the project with a lot of media attention being focused on the opinions of those who preferred their verges "neat and tidy".
To challenge these perceptions, Fourteen Forty recommended the creation of a strong brand that caught the eye as well as getting the message across clearly. A brand that demonstrated this project had a message which needed to be taken seriously by everyone if we want to help improve our environment.
Initially, signage was placed at all sites to raise awareness of the project and give a clear message that these sites were now being managed to create a positive change.
Next, we created a website that serves as an information hub for those who want to know more about the project. Each location was mapped and imagery regularly uploaded to reflect progress at that site. A toolkit outlining best practice will soon be available for anyone who would like to change their approach to grassland management.
Social media played a vital part in getting the message out. Here we were fortunate to have the invaluable assistance of the project lead, Rachel Bain (Biodiversity Officer, Causeway Coast & Glens Council) and Donna Rainey, an incredibly dedicated volunteer who brings an undiminished passion to the project. You can like the Facebook page here.
To increase engagement with the project at a local level we developed an engagement programme to be delivered at primary schools across the borough.
The children were fascinated to learn about the story of pollination, as told by the Don’t Mow, Let It Grow mascot, Bizzy Flo the Bumble Bee. In finding out how they can make a difference we now have a keen group of junior environmentalists to help spread the word.
You can read a creative insight into the making of Bizzy Flo here.
Throughout the project an economic appraisal has been carried out by eftec, the first consultancy in the UK to apply environmental economics to public policy and business challenges. This is very much in line with the project’s goal of clearly demonstrating a positive impact on both the environment and the financial costs of grassland management.
The full results, along with their methodology, will be made available shortly as part of the online toolkit.
Over 2500 People Like Our Page.
(60% increase so far in 2019)
Over 1000 Surveys submitted
by the public.
Over 95% of people support this approach
to grassland management.
For those concerned about road safety issues please consider this message from Gary Quinn of the Department for Infrastructure:
“The important word is management. It is not about the abandonment of the road verge by the Department to just let everything grow wild. The sites are surveyed and the methodology carefully developed and tested. Different management options including frequency and timing of cutting and lifting are developed for each site to enhance its biodiversity, whilst not compromising road safety. The project has not been about short term cost savings for the Department, but crucially, it is hoped that the lessons learned from the pilot will better inform policy-making on the Department’s verge management over the longer term. The project also identified areas with Invasive Alien Species and has worked to ensure they are not spread.”
The Council has committed itself to continue to implement the Don’t Mow, Let it Grow principles post-project and several public and private landowners have also committed to adopting the principles throughout their own sites.
The Don’t Mow, Let It Grow project very much fits with Fourteen Forty’s ethos of supporting projects which we believe will have a positive impact on our world through improving the environment, encouraging people to become more active and delivering societal benefits.