NOT many football grounds have orchids growing around the stadium, a wild flower development programme or an owl roosting in the roof of the stands - but then not many clubs have the green credentials of Forest Green Rovers , writes Nick Osbourne.
Eagle-eyed may have noticed a number of orchid species present on the west side of The New Lawn stadium, including the Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia), Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera), as well as a wide variety of other wild flowers such as Cowslips (Primula veris) and BirdsFoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).
For Forest Green groundsman Stewart Ward, that means his attention is not restricted to his award winning football pitch - it means overseeing a careful management plan to maintain and enhance wildlife around the stadium as well.
Ward said: “Over the last ten years, there’s been a significant reduction in wildlife areas like this in the UK - and with the land we have around The New Lawn, we have the power to do something we think is important.
“The planting of wild flowers has attracted more bees and butterflies; aesthetically, it is an attractive addition to the land; and the reduced mowing schedule for wild flower areas means reduced machinery usage and more time for me to work on getting the football pitch absolutely right.
“It’s pretty unique activity for a football club. It’s just a start, and we’re hoping for bigger and better things next year, but what we are doing is already having an impact.”
The biodiversity work at the ground is continually developing - as well as planting a wild flower seed mix and developing a new mowing regime to support orchids and other wild flowers, there are also plans for carefully placed nest boxes in the land around the stadium to encourage barn owls (Tyto alba), house martins (Delichon urbica) and other wild birds.
Bruce Cockrean, sustainability manager for Forest Green, conducted an ecological survey for the club this year and says the club is committed to protecting and enhancing the land around the stadium. Cockrean said: He said: “From an ecological point of view, it was vital to record the fauna and flora around us here at The New Lawn - knowing what is here now means we can make the right decisions to support and enrich biodiversity for years to come. “Ecology and football are not often said in the same breath, but this football club is well known for its environmental initiatives, whether it’s the solar panels on the stadium, recycling rain water from the pitch, or our broader work for Sustainability in Sport. “Ensuring that we look after the biodiversity around us here is an integral part of the wider environmental commitment we have at Forest Green Rovers.”