THE county council has been criticised for clearing wildflowers and scrub from green spaces in Winchester during peak bird breeding season.

Last month people were encouraged to take part in ‘No Mow May’ to allow for wildflowers to bloom, providing a feast of nectar for pollinators.

But residents have become frustrated after contractors, believed to be working for Hampshire County Council’s Highways department, had cut one-acre of meadow on Monday May 24. The land is next to East Winchester Park and Ride at Bar End.

Liz Fouch, 65, of Highcliffe, regularly walks her dog along the cycleway which runs through the meadow. She said: “It’s disgusting how ignorant people can be.

“They have decimated this beautiful meadow at completely the wrong time of year. On Monday morning (last week) it was full of birdsong and flowering cowslips, buttercups, and geraniums. By Tuesday morning all the wildlife was gone. The brambles had been destroyed and the flowers mulched into the ground.

“The council and contractors must have known it was the wrong time of year. It is disgraceful they did not wait until the bird nesting season was over before controlling the scrub. There is no excuse for the works to take place at this time of year. Next year’s wildflower seed source has been mulched into the ground.”

Liz added: “This was meadow alive with bird song every morning. We loved seeing song thrush, black bird, long tailed-tits and green woodpecker. On Tuesday the meadow was silent, and I watched a little robin looking absolutely lost.”

Councillor Rob Humby, deputy leader and executive lead member for economy, transport and the environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “The overgrown meadow was posing a threat to the survival of the wild flowers that grow there. Wildflower meadows require either at least two grass cuts each year or regular grazing to maintain the biodiversity. In order to allow the flowering life of the cowslips to be maintained, mowing was delayed until late May – we could not leave it until later because of the orchids and other summer flowering plants which will come through.

“A second cut will take place in September. Most wildflower species are perennials and will bounce back now that the coarse grasses, brambles and scrub have been removed. Doing nothing would lead to the meadow slowly reverting to scrub woodland.”