Call to cut the strimming on Biddulph Valley Way

A change to the strimming schedule along Biddulph Valley Way could be made after concerns that “beautiful” wildflowers were cut down in full bloom.
Carol Nixon, of Biddulph, said she was “devastated” last Saturday when she saw that cow parsley had been strimmed by a contractor.
Biddulph North councillor Andrew Hart said he also received complaints from residents in his Biddulph North Ward and has since sought some reassurance from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council about changes to the cutting contract.
Mrs Nixon, of Smokies Way, said: “The cutting was completely unnecessary as social distancing by two metres has widened the path. I have been trying to seek some information about this. I was devastated!
“Many others are very upset, it was so beautiful. The wildflowers down there are almost surreal combined with the white of the hawthorn.”
Mrs Nixon, a frequent user of Biddulph Valley Way, said she spoke to the man who was strimming but respected that he was following a work sheet. She could not speak to anyone at the council as it was the weekend.
Repeating Mrs Nixon's mention of how social distancing has widened the footpath, reducing the need for cutting, Coun Hart said: “I believe the existing contract was issued three years ago and possibly, in light of what's going on now, is not valid.”
Referring to the cutting he added: “Why would they want to do that now anyway? Why have they gone and cut the wildflowers?”
Coun Hart said that after speaking to Coun Mark Deaville, deputy leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Cabinet member responsible for sport and leisure, he was hopeful there would be no more cutting on Biddulph Valley Way before next month and that a revised contract would be introduced to reduce the frequency of cutting.
He added: “Mark Deaville said it was perhaps time to look at the frequency of cutting and that a new contract is made up. Walkers on Biddulph Valley Way have been saying 'where have all the wildlflowers gone?
“There's all sorts of beautiful wildflowers along there, half a dozen of which you don't see in many other places.”
He added: “This is an opportunity to change things for the better, the future is not the strimmer.”
Mrs Nixon said she was also concerned about the hedgerows and verges on Akesmore Lane in Biddulph, which she said were cut this time last year by Staffordshire County Council. She said she did not want it to be repeated.
She said: “Spring is prime time for wild flowers and hedgerows and for insects and goes against everything we are trying to promote and protect. Again, I thought this would never happen again and did voice my shock and opinions then.”
Mrs Nixon added: “Plant life organisations have been advising the Government about the value of our verges and asked authorities to be selective when cutting and I felt a little more confident that this would be acknowledged.
“Somehow the mindset has to be changed and not a job on a work sheet, but it should be done sensitively and sensibly and be managed by someone before it is done.”
As Akesmore Lane is the responsibility of Staffordshire County Council Mrs Nixon has contacted County Coun Ian Lawson, who represents Biddulph North at County Hall, to request that the verges and hedgerows were not cut.
He pointed out that the county does not cut the hedgerows, but said verges would be cut.
“Unfortunately this is all on schedule. The verges are being done, hopefully twice a year,” County Coun Lawson said.
He said he believed it would be difficult to alter in the current situation and current staffing levels.
“The county has thousands of kilometres of verges and they've got to be cut on a strict rotation. I get calls off people asking why have the verges not been cut. You can't please everybody,” he added.
Nicola Kemp, head of service commissioning at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, said: “I can confirm that any grass cutting undertaken along Biddulph Valley Way is to ensure that access is maintained for users. We complete no more than five cuts in each calendar year. The first cut occurs in mid-May and the last cut in September, meaning a cut generally occurs each month. Inevitably, the cutting undertaken along the way does differ at various points. The primary cutting is alongside the verges of the main pathway, the depth of which varies dependent on the stretch of the way.
“In addition our contractor strims around all gates and access points. The cutting undertaken seeks to ensure minimal destruction to biodiversity while maintaining access for users, which is ever more necessary to enable social distancing currently.”