Thriving meadow in Sidmouth reduced ‘to desert’ after worker cuts nine acres of land

PUBLISHED: 18:00 30 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:47 01 August 2018

Ed Dolphin of Sidmouth Arboretum surveys the wildflower meadow mowed by accident

Ed Dolphin of Sidmouth Arboretum surveys the wildflower meadow mowed by accident

Archant

A wildflower meadow in Sidmouth was reduced to ‘a desert’ when a council worker mowed it by accident.

Orchids before the field was mowedOrchids before the field was mowed

East Devon District Council have apologised after an employee, on a sit-on mower, was tasked with cutting a pathway from the car parks at The Knowle, in Sidmouth, to the gates for people to walk down to the town.

Instead, he cut the whole nine acres.

The wildflower meadow, blooming with all kinds of flora, including orchids, and bristling with butterflies, birds and insects was in the words of one conservationist reduced to ‘a desert’.

The meadow has been at the centre of controversy with County Councillor Stuart Hughes who last year said it was a ‘gateway to Sidmouth’ containing ‘weeds’ and needed to be ‘spruced up’ ahead of the visit of Britain in Bloom judges.

Ed Dolphin of Sidmouth Arboretum surveys the wildflower meadow mowed by accidentEd Dolphin of Sidmouth Arboretum surveys the wildflower meadow mowed by accident

East Devon District Council (EDDC) decided to mow the strip of the field nearest the road to provide a clear footpath, but leave the rest growing wild.

To the dismay of Sidmouth Arboretum treasurer Ed Dolphin, the whole lot was cleared by accident.

He had been counting butterflies the previous day for a national survey and turned up the next day to find butterflies and wildflowers were all gone.

He said: “I was horrified because it wasn’t just the number but the sheer variety of butterflies there - at least eight different sorts – the day after there was just one, a good old cabbage white.

Orchids before the field was mowedOrchids before the field was mowed

“It’s tidy but it’s more like a desert. Mowing it when they did and leaving the cuttings on is going to mean fewer wildflowers next time.”

An EDDC spokesperson said: “We regret that one of our operatives misunderstood the instructions he was given and cut the arena area by mistake, instead of just cutting some pathways and a flat area to help those using the park for walking through.

“We agree this shouldn’t have happened and will be taking measures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again next year.”

EDDC said it would be bringing in a machine by the end of next week to pick up the cut grass.

Cllr Hughes said he was not involved in the matter this year and supported the idea of a properly planted wildflower meadow.

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