Natural areas being created around the city to help bees and wildlife

About 80 species of wildflowers and plants have been found in new natural areas around Aberdeen where grass has not been cut to encourage wildflowers, help bees, and provide habitat for wildlife.

Species seen include northern marsh orchids, buttercups, hawkbits, dandelions, scentless mayweed, ox-eye daisy, meadowsweet, cow parsley, bugle, sorrel, red clover, white clover, birds-foot trefoil, a few species of attractive flowering grasses, nettles, rosebay willowherb, and greater willowherb.

There are eight places around the city where the more natural management of greenspaces have been adopted including the Stonehaven road and Garthdee Road, Riverside Drive, Culter bypass, Skene Road verges, Riverview Drive, Raeden Park, Eric Hendrie Park, and Fernielea Park. There is an additional location at Oldmachar Graveyard at St Machar’s Cathedral working in partnership with the cathedral congregation and wider community to improve the biodiversity through managing the vegetation by leaving it to grow during the summer in some places.

The natural areas have required a change in management regimes by reducing mowing to promote wildflowers. Some will only be cut once at the end of the summer and all the cuttings removed, and other areas are cut two or three times a year. Areas are still maintained with more frequent cuts where there is a need for areas for informal or formal recreation activities and, where the vegetation is allowed to grow longer, paths are mown through the areas to maintain public access.

Aberdeen City Council operational delivery committee convener Councillor Philip Bell said: “Aberdeen has a long history of horticultural excellence dating back for more than 50 years resulting in many high-quality horticultural greenspaces – we have multi award-winning parks and as recent as 2019 we were representing Scotland in the RHS Britain in Bloom UK finals, won a gold medal certificate, and also won the city category.

“With increasing awareness of climate change, there is a need to take action to manage greenspaces more sustainably to mitigate and reduce climate change and support biodiversity.

“It is good to see our efforts have supported about 80 species of wildflower and plants and the associated increase in insects and small mammals and we hope people enjoy these new areas and the benefits they bring.”

The work, which is part of ACC’s Climate Change Plan which shows the proactive response to reduce target emissions through council buildings, mobility, transport, and council operations and includes target of net zero carbon emissions by 2045, is also aimed at allowing people to get closer to nature in their local area and complementing traditionally close-cut parks and greenspaces.

Several areas were trialled last year during the coronavirus lockdown and most were continued into 2021 and other areas may be introduced in the future.

Many of the areas are popular areas for walking, running, cycling and dog walking, away from the surfaced path network. To maintain access for these activities, wide paths have been cut though the areas of longer grass.

Routes for these paths were chosen by the natural paths people were taking through these areas and usually link to points of interest or access points to the sites as well as any existing surfaced path network. 

The new natural areas will either be mowed at the end of the growing season to help with re-seeding of wildflowers or two to three times a year to encourage wildflowers to establish, as per guidelines for natural management of greenspaces.