A delighted walker sent an email to their local council to say thank you for leaving a disused golf course to become overgrown because it would help wildlife, only to be told it was only in that state due to a broken mower. Walkers over the Western Golf Course in Leicester had been enjoying its more natural appearance after the usual mowing of the grass stopped earlier this year.
However, when one walker emailed Leicester City Council to say how lovely the area was looking, she was told the pause in mowing was down to broken machinery, not a change in the maintenance of the course. The response, seen by LeicestershireLive, read: “Sorry to disappoint you, but there have been no changes to our mowing policy, our mower has broken down and we have had difficulty in sourcing parts.”
The course has since been cut, much to the disappointment of those who use it as a green escape from the busy city. Steve Walters, who has walked the course every day for the last 26 years has long been campaigning for it to be kept as a wildlife haven.
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The course was earmarked for a 446 home development in Leicester’s draft local plan – a document which sets out the land that can be built on.
Mr Walters told us he would much rather the course be left to nature than subjected to this regimen of mowing. “We had a touch of [mowing] during January or late last year and then nothing,” he said. “And we thought ‘great!’
“On the paths, because of the footfall, the grass is compressed without needing to be mown. So they just don’t need to do anything. That would be the ideal situation, if they just let it rewild.
“But they don’t seem to want it to look like it’s a good habitat for nature. I’d like it to become a nature area, or at least a good chunk of it, for people to enjoy, for cleaner air and the wildlife. It’s just much nicer to look at than a closely cropped lawn.
“I think it’s a small thing to ask to be honest. If you’re going to build all over it at some point, okay we’ll lose out, but at least nature would have been able to enjoy it for a few more years without it being mown to death.”
However, a city council spokesperson said they will not be rewilding the site, saying they have ‘a duty to maintain it’. He added that the council strives to balance necessary maintenance with the need for natural habitats.
Mr Walters, who lives on the Glenfield side of the course, which straddles the city/county border, said the ‘unnecessary’ mowing seemed at odds with the push toward a greener city. He also claimed maintenance costs were the reason cited for the course’s closure in 2015.
He said: “There’s a lot of box ticking and ‘we’re doing this and we’re doing that’. There are a lot of initiatives, grass on the bus shelters and other headline grabbers that have a very small impact really when you’ve got all the acres of the golf course and other areas being mown flat.
“How does that balance? So, I’m a bit depressed about it all really.
“Down to the lower orders, there are quite a few insects and butterflies on there at the minute, which have obviously been attracted. There are lots of birds of all sorts of varieties, buzzards, woodpeckers, jays, lots of birds which enjoy grassland.
“There are definitely foxes and badgers on there. If you walk on there you’ll see lots of trails that aren’t made by people.
“I asked them specifically why they are mowing this when maintenance costs, mowing the grass and so forth, were cited as one of the reasons they couldn’t afford to keep the course open,” he added. “If I were the taxpayer paying into the city, I wouldn’t be very happy that when they’re closing this and the other due to budget constraints, that they’re quite happy to pay some guy to mow the golf course. ”
A city council spokesperson said: “We have a duty to maintain the site of Western Park golf course, by carrying out regular mowing, clearing footpaths and removing obstacles. This is well below the level of maintenance needed to maintain it when it was a golf course, and we try to strike a balance between ensuring safe access points and rights of way, and providing for some natural habitat.
“We are not rewilding the site, but the recent warm wet weather means the grass has grown quickly and the site has become more overgrown. We’re not aware of any new emerging species on the site, although the longer grass will have naturally attracted more wildlife, especially at this time of the year.”