‘Urban meadows’ are to be created across Andover as part of an experiment to bring rare species back to the borough.

Sites in Augusta Park and Picket Twenty, as well as St Mary’s Church, are among areas where grass will be left unmown until September as part of a pilot by Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) to find out whether rare plants and insects, which are negatively affected by regular mowing, will make a comeback.

The plans are part of a wider initiative, No Mow May, where gardeners across the county are encouraged to let their garden grow to allow rare species to thrive.

Under the plans, sites across Andover, Romsey and Valley Park, amounting to around seven hectares, will stop being mowed from this month. In Andover, the sites are located along Smannell Road, in Picket Twenty and Beech Hurst parks, in St Mary’s Churchyard and alongside the A303.

These will then be monitored across the summer, with the new plants and animals on the site recorded. In September, a decision will then be made whether the space is viable as a meadow, if it should be seeded with wildflowers to improve its biodiversity, or if it should be mowed regularly once again.

In a statement, TVBC said: “The longer term plan will see a much larger area of urban meadow created across the borough. Working with Hampshire County Council, we hope to include suitable roadside verges which will enable a connected network of wildlife rich green spaces to be established, while not restricting visibility for vehicles.”

The move comes as national charities encourage residents to do the same in their own gardens, and embrace ‘lockdown garden cuts’, in reference to the long hair sported by many when hairdressers were closed in lockdown.

Dr Trevor Dines, a botanist from the charity Plantlife, said that some plants, like daisies, are much more able to adapt to mowing, either being missed entirely by the blades, or by producing extra flowers if they are damaged.

“"In contrast, tall-grass species like oxeye daisy, red clover, field scabious and knapweed grow upright and take longer to reach flowering size,” he said. “They can’t cope with being cut off regularly, so only bloom in grass that’s not been mown for several months or more.

“Our results show these unmown long-grass areas are home to a greater range of wild flower species, complimenting the narrower range found in short-grass areas.”

He encouraged residents to keep gardens with one part left to grow long, which the mown section should be cut once a month. He said this would encourage both shorter plants favoured by insects in the mown sections, and “floral diversity” in the longer grass.