Wildflowers to be planted on The Stray in Harrogate to bring splash of colour to roadsides and improve biodiversity

The planting of thousands of wildflowers on Harrogate’s Stray is to get underway this weekend in a bid to boost biodiversity and bring a brush of colour to busy roadsides.

The Stray in Harrogate
The Stray in Harrogate

Wildflower meadows have been part of our landscape for thousands of years but in more recent history have slipped into a dramatic decline as the species-rich grasslands are ploughed over for housing, farming and roads.

According to conservation charity Plantlife, an estimated 97 per cent of meadows across the UK have disappeared since the 1930s.

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This has prompted a push from campaigners for plugs to be planted and grasslands left to blossom to try reverse the decline in wildlife, with members of the Harrogate and District Green Party last year calling on the borough council to take action.

Now, and with the help of volunteers from Bilton Conservation Group, the planting of 5,500 wildflower plugs on the Stray will get underway on May 14 in a trial which could see more areas across the district transformed to support the return of insects from bees and beetles to grasshoppers and butterflies.

Green Party campaigner Rebecca Maunder said: “This is a really welcome move that we have been encouraging – it can make a big impact in improving local habitats for our declining wildlife. There does also need to be a joined up approach required to increase biodiversity locally and we should cease every opportunity we can.”

The wildflowers will be planted on two areas of the Stray; near Leeds Road and York Place.

Planting should have started in April but was delayed due to poor weather conditions. It will now take place across four days in May and it is expected that the plugs will be in bloom by September.

Sue Wood, horticultural officer at Harrogate Council, said there are other ways the authority hopes to bring back biodiversity, with some churchyards in the district already being left untouched by lawnmowers so they can blossom into meadows.

She also said the planting of plugs elsewhere would depend on the success of the Stray scheme.

She said: “Climate problems and the loss of habitats have had an impact on insects and pollinators so we hope by planting wildflowers we can increase biodiversity. It will be a trial to start with but we hope to expand it elsewhere in the future.”

In September, the council revealed its new horticultural strategy which set out how the authority will manage its almost 1,000-acres of green space over the next decade.

The strategy included the planting of wildflowers and extra measures to make sure dogs are kept on leads, but was criticised by Green Party members who welcomed some schemes but called for greater ambition and public involvement.

This forced the council’s cabinet member for environment, Coun Andrew Paraskos, on the defensive with him previously saying: “it is in our power to make positive change but we can’t do everything overnight."

Also included in the strategy are plans for a sensory garden, a review of grass cutting and research into whether parks could be used for bee-keeping.