Some recent comments in my local Parish Council Newsletter bother me. They relate to management of the village green, and suggest that the moles that recently reappeared there need eradicating and that some of the 'thorn trees' may be removed, presumably for aesthetic reasons. There is also, apparently some interest in entering a Best Kept Village contest or similar.
To my mind controlling moles is not only an unnecessary expense, it is also inappropriate for communal space such as the village green, where they do no harm other than offend notions of bowling green aesthetics. If I showed the children of the local primary school a live mole and asked which of them thinks these amazing creatures should be killed so that the grass looks tidy, what would be the answer, from minds unbefuddled by outdated ideas of what a shared green space should be? Of course residents have the right to an ecologically barren private lawn with neat stripes and a patio of paved perfection unsullied by any uninvited flora. But where the shared space of the green is concerned I think there is a clear duty to do better than that. The green should not only look wonderful, but serve as a natural biodiversity resource.
I’d love to see the village embark on a community project to give the place a makeover – but absolutely not Best Kept Village or Britain in Bloom. There is evidence that efforts to conform to this kind of ideal are damaging biodiversity - as greens are overmowed, borders sealed to hedgehogs, foxes, rabbits and badgers, beds crowded with overbred bedding plants with little or no nectar to offer butterflies, bees and other pollinators and all manner of wildlife deliberately or accidentally excluded or eradicated. What I would like to propose is something far more daring and special. How about national ‘Wild villages’ where birds, pollinators, wildflowers and yes, moles, are welcome in areas where they do no damage to economic interests. Imagine a sign as people drove into a village – ‘Welcome to Wild Wherever – proud to be naturally beautiful’ – would that not be something special?
I’m not suggesting we let the place go – far from it. Anyone who has visited one of many parks gardens managed for wildlife lately (NT Nunnington Hall is a great example local to me) can see how breathtakingly beautiful a wildlife garden can be. There is no shortage of places to draw inspiration. Let the green grow– just mow the edges to ensure it looks cared for. That's what happens on our lane and it looks glorious. Recent research in York has come up with some dramatic results - for example not mowing the city walls in summer has boosted bat passes by several orders of magnitude. It's actually very easy to create habitat that looks great but makes room for nature too. Let the wild flowers come, and beneath them the molehills. Plant trees and shrubs for their food and cover value to wildlife as well as their looks. Sign up to community projects and initiatives such as Hedgehog Street, Great Garden Birdwatch, Big Butterfly Count, Get Britain Buzzing, Living with Mammals, Give Nature a Home, Big Bat Map - there are dozens.
Wild shared spaces could appeal to a wide demographic of residents and perhaps engage some not currently catered for by existing community activities. I think it's worth a try...