HOW best to look after outdoor spaces for both residents and wildlife has become the centre of much debate in Calstock parish.

Long grasses and uncut verges represent a haven for wildlife, but for others, they are an eyesore. The issue is particularly sensitive when it comes to cemeteries.

 “The cemetery at Albaston is an utter disgrace. It is not the place for no mow in May,” said Wendy-lynn Dalton. “You can’t get to the graves without getting soaking wet and need an axe to chop your way through.”

Former parish clerk Julia Massey, also sounded concerns, saying: “The Burial Board in my time took a real pride in the cemeteries. Grasscutting was always managed to ensure wildflowers were preserved and allowed to seed. However, those visiting their loved ones’ graves also need to be considered and accessibility to graves should be a priority.”

Pete Bluett, who retired from his maintenance role with the council last year, said he was shocked and dismayed “to see the state of the playing field and riverbank in Calstock which looked a complete mess”.

He said: “The village looked uncared for and shabby due to the grass not having been cut. Also there is the issue of Lyme disease which can be caused by ticks which thrive in that type of environment.”

In response the council said it would address the waterfront area ahead of last weekend’s Calstock Regatta.

Some residents however welcome the ‘rewilding’ approach and are thankful that the council is helping to re-establish habitats for insects, bees and butterflies.

Peter Thompson is part of the council’s volunteer environment group.

He said: “All over the country, councils and other public services are trying to work in more nature-friendly ways to try and combat the catastrophic decline of wildlife. Churchyards in particular are being identified as perfect havens for wildlife.”

As part of Calstock council’s greener approach, Peter added, three scythes have been purchased in order to reduce the use of mowing machinery when managing grassed areas, and it’s hoped to set up a scything task force.

The parish council says it is doing what it can to strike a balance, and has refuted the idea that it is not mowing in order to save money. On the contrary, it says that this year more money has been spent than ever on outside services and equipment, in an effort to respond to people's feedback.

“In line with our environmental policy, we are trying to find 'Spaces for Nature' in all of our open areas,” the council said.“This needs to be done in a sensitive manner, finding compromise for all users.

“Our decision to leave areas for rewilding is not based on cutting costs. However, our resources are limited and our small Outside Services Team cover all playing fields, recreational grounds, cemeteries, footpaths, open spaces and car parks, whilst maintaining our buildings. Our councillors are unpaid volunteers and welcome constructive feedback on our work.” What do you think? Email [email protected]