Neville preparing the soil for laying enhanced wildflower turf

Rewilding comes to Reading Town Centre

  • Enhanced wildflower turf laid at several locations around Reading Town Centre
  • Rewilding aims to restore, reclaim and protect natural habitats

REWILDING has come to Reading Town Centre as verges and roundabouts are laid with wildflower turf enhanced with flowering plants ahead of the spring, as part of a wider Council project to restore, reclaim and protect natural habitats across the borough.

Reading Borough Council is teaming up with Reading Central Business Improvement (BID) who are funding the turf to the tune of nearly £12,000.

Cllr Karen Rowland, centre, Cllr Tony Page, right, Bobby Lonergan, Business Improvement District Manager, left

Late autumn/winter is the ideal time to lay wildflower turf, which should yield flowers in spring and summer 2022. The project will cover verges in areas such as Queen's Road, Forbury Road and outside the railway station.

The turf laid around the town centre will include varieties of plants that will extend the flowering season and provide a bright backdrop to some otherwise inhospitable traffic corridors.

The experimental rewilding scheme - which introduced a new approach to grass cutting in selected locations across Reading during 2020 - has proved a great success and so popular with the public that it has been expanded this year. Some of the best places to see this is along the Basingstoke Road, Portman Road and Lansdowne Road.

During 2021, as well as extending the rewilding scheme across new areas of the borough – including Wensley Road green, Cintra Avenue and parts of Milestone Way - the Council successfully extended rewilding across 12 parks, which has added 2 ha (5%) to the overall amount of conservation grass. Rewilding has caught on with residents too and this past year has seen community groups working with the Council in adopting areas such as Amity Alley in East Reading and Tweed Court in West Reading.

Enhanced wildflower turf laying, station roundabout

The Council’s final cut-and-collect mowing across verges and parks is now complete, which is an important part of the rewilding cycle. When grass is strong, it competes out other species. For this reason, the Council currently cuts some sites three times during the growing season for a few years and removes the cuttings. In a few years’ time, it will be possible to reduce this to one autumn mowing.

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “Our Rewilding trials have proved very successful over the last 18 months – many of our verges looked lovely when they burst into colour in the spring and the extremely positive feedback from residents has been heartening to see.  Projects like this, which seek to enhance our environment and biodiversity, also mesh beautifully with our City Status bid and go a long way towards enhancing Reading’s reputation as an environmental leader, regionally and beyond.”

Cllr Jason Brock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said: “I’m delighted to see our Rewilding project extended to the town centre verges with this enhanced wildflower turf, generously funded by our partners at Reading Central BID. It is always pleasing to see businesses reinvesting in our town’s environment and recognising the value that initiatives like this add to residents’ experience of the town centre.

“In a busy town like Reading, maintaining a connection with nature is all the more important. Moreover, these experimental changes feed into our wider, far-reaching ambitions set out in our Climate Emergency Strategy and Biodiversity Action Plan.”

Bobby Lonergan, Business Improvement District Manager said: “Reading town centre businesses, like many other parts of our economy, have a significant environmental footprint. Supporting rewilding in Reading town centre is one strand of the Green Business Improvement District plan to assess this impact, understand better what is already being done by our businesses and across the town centre as a whole, and to deliver an action plan to work towards Reading Business Improvement District becoming a national beacon of environmental good practice.”

A Rewilding review will be carried out at the end of the season and a summary report will go before the Council’s Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee (HNLC) in March 2022.

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