INDIVIDUALS often feel powerless when it comes to global issues like climate change. Will sharing a car to work really make any difference when coal-burning factories on the other side of the world continue to pump clouds of carbon into the atmosphere?
But for many of us this year, something clicked.
The idea was simple, but it started what could be a revolution. And it didn’t involve us making an effort. It actually involved us NOT doing something – cutting the grass!
People have spent centuries trying – and failing – to get the perfect lawn. The problem is that grass never stops growing and nor do ‘weeds’, aka wildflowers. It only takes a few days for a lawn to look unkept again.
Trying to maintain a lawn reminds Dúlra of Roman emperor Caligula who declared war on the sea and attacked it with his sword!
It was the bee lovers of Ireland who called time on all this wasted effort. For decades, our bees have been vanishing along with the clouds of insects that used to end up on our car windscreen when we were going on our holidays years ago. Ireland has become a domesticated country where agriculture is sacrosanct and where local authorities consider a crooked branch to be a cancer to be cut out.
But five years ago, two women scientists conceived the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and decided to try and change the world. And now they’ve produced another five-year plan to bring about a landscape where pollinators can flourish. So far, 278 businesses have committed to the plan, as have local councils the length and breadth of the country.
But, vitally, so have ordinary people. Because there is a part of Ireland that we all have control of – our gardens. And if you add them all up, that’s a lot of real estate.
And so the call went out nationwide to let your gardens grow.
To be honest, Dúlra didn’t immediately warm to it. What’s a lawn if it’s not neat?
But this week as he sat in the middle of the garden, he was filled with wonder at the sheer variety of wildflowers that had sprung up from the once-shorn lawn, with bees buzzing among them. Knapweed, clover, ragged robin. Dúlra’s just waiting on an orchid springing up – the royalty of the plant world.
We have 30 species of orchid – by the way we also have 32 types of butterflies – numbers that suggest that our county breakdown may not have been totally random.
Amazing! Every village/town could have a nature park! https://t.co/qTPB7xnU3o— AllIrelandPollinatorPlan (@PollinatorPlan) June 19, 2021
Cutting the garden is something we have done for generations, so there are many hurdles to overcome in changing perceptions. Parents will offer to cut the grass when they visit their kids, neighbours will hint that action needs taken when plants get out of control, others will complain to councils about ‘lazy’ staff letting verges grow.
Last year Dúlra noticed a sign reading ‘Managed for Wildlife’ on a stretch of uncut grass next to Valley Leisure Centre – it transpired that Newtownabbey Council had thrown its weight behind the first five-year all-Ireland pollinator plan, and since then Belfast City Council has joined the scheme.
KNEE-HIGH IN GROWTH
Today that patch of wasteland is knee-high in growth and there will be plenty of meadow pipits eyeing it up as a place to nest. Yet for years this land was mowed by council workers just to make it pleasant on the human eye.
When Dúlra looks at all those wildflowers in his garden today, he realises that we have been conditioned to like a lawn as neat as a golf course. Now, thankfully, we’re learning to embrace an insect-friendly garden.
And of course, you don’t have to let everything get totally out of control. Wildflowers will soon seed and as summer draws towards a conclusion, the lawnmowers can start humming again.
But for now, Dúlra prefers the humming of the bees.
• If you’ve seen or photographed anything interesting, or have any nature questions, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.