With forecasters predicting a shift in the weather and the prospect of drier conditions over the next few days, we're waging war on roadside weeds.
The recent prolonged wet conditions have meant that we have been unable to carry out weed spraying to the extent that we normally would at this time of year.
For weed-killer to work effectively it has to be applied when there is a period of three consecutive dry days – a rare event in recent weeks.
“I know that people having been getting frustrated by the sight of weeds sprouting up everywhere, but conditions really have been against us,” says Coun Richard Jackson, chairman of the County Council’s highways and transport committee.
“People are often under the impression that the County Council uses some sort of super-strength weed-killer which destroys everything in its path.
“The fact is that, by law, the stuff we use is no stronger than that which you can buy off the shelf at your local DIY store – and, for it to work properly and safely, it has to be applied when conditions are dry and there is no risk of it being washed away.
"To continue spraying during all the torrential rain we’ve had over the past few weeks would have been absolutely futile."
Now though, with weather experts predicting a return to more usual summer conditions, battle has commenced again and our highways teams are out and about, not only weed-spraying but also cutting grass verges.
We are responsible for cutting more than 5,000 kilometres of grass verge right across the county, with grass cutting taking place from April to the end of September – and possibly into October, depending on the weather.
We carry out grass cutting across the county in both rural and urban areas. In urban areas grass cutting is carried out five times within the season. Strimming around obstacles - such as benches and signposts - is done after the second and fourth cut.
“We are just completing the third cut so, with the weather improving and strimming to follow the next cut, the situation should rapidly improve over the next six weeks or so,” said Coun Jackson.
In rural areas, we carry out what are known as full and vision cuts. Vision cuts are carried out specifically at junctions where it is vital that undergrowth is kept to a minimum, allowing motorists a clear view in all directions.
For rural cuts we use tractors fitted with metre-long side arm flails whilst in urban areas the task is done using sit-on mowers with flails which are a lot more manoeuvrable. Mower blades for both urban and rural are set to a height of two and a half inches.
Despite what many people think, cutting takes place for maintenance and safety reasons – not for aesthetics.
“The most frequent complaints we get are why don’t we do it more often and why don’t we collect the cuttings,” added Coun Jackson.
“The answer to both is cost. We operate a cut-and-drop policy, so we don’t collect the cuttings. In order to do so we’d have to buy different mowers and we’d also have to tip the green waste which would require an extra lorry to take it all way.
“You’d then have extra manpower and other on-costs – just imagine how much grass you’d collect. When all is said and done, it does no harm and soon rots down."
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