City of Edinburgh Council are creating, restoring and connecting green areas of the city. Enjoyed by residents and visitors to Edinburgh, these changes are producing attractive and biodiverse landscapes that are healthy, nature rich and resilient to climate change.

The changes have included the creation of floral meadows, a reduction in grass cutting, pathways mown through areas of longer grass, more trees planted in urban areas and parks, and an increase in herbaceous perennial planting.

By allowing grassland habitats to develop in a more natural manner within urban settings, the biodiversity of wildlife has been increasing, the costs of managing intensively maintained areas has reduced, and less regular cuttings have slowed rainwater run-off helping to lock-up carbon in soils and reduce CO2 release.

The planting of flowering species has also added colour through the changing seasons, and encouraged the public to use these outdoor spaces throughout the year.

Wildflower meadows.
St Katherines Park. Image by Chris Hampton

Benefits of a Living Landscape

Allowing grassland habitats to develop in a more natural manner in urban settings by reducing grass cutting or sowing flowering plants offers these benefits:

  • biodiversity will increase as birds, mammals and insects are attracted to more natural, wilder areas;
  • costs of managing intensively maintained areas of grassland can be reduced;
  • planting flowering species will add colour to the cityscape throughout the seasons; and
  • less regular cutting slows rainwater run-off and helps lock-up carbon in soils, reducing CO2 release.
City of Edinburgh Council maintaining a wildflower meadow. Image by Barrie Williams. 
City of Edinburgh Council maintaining a wildflower meadow. Image by Barrie Williams.

Project Progress to end of 2017

Across its greenspaces, The City of Edinburgh Council has created 74 new wildflower meadows and 105 ha of more naturalised grassland. The latter are mown at timings that promote growth of a more diverse range of species and better habitat for wildlife. These sites have been surveyed during 221 sessions by University of Edinburgh students, and now are used for research as part of a PhD looking at their socio-economic benefits as well as improvements for wildlife. The project also produced lots of really useful advice and supporting resources such as an education pack and gardeners How to guides – see this webpage’s Downloads section. These educational resources have been used in numerous formal and informal settings.

A map of the Living Landscape features can be found via the link here.

Frequently asked questions

For parks and green spaces, the Edinburgh Living Landscape will mean changes to how some of our outdoor spaces will look. The project involves a range of measures, including:

  • creation of floral meadows;
  • reducing how often some areas of grass are cut and allowing natural grassland to thrive;
  • mowing pathways through areas of longer grass so they can still be explored and enjoyed;
  • tree planting and creating woodlands; and
  • increasing our use of herbaceous perennial planting.

Areas where the grass is not used for any particular recreational purpose and are labour intensive to maintain. These will typically be steep banks, under groups of trees, small areas that are fenced off and difficult to operate machines in and large, seldom used areas (sometimes referred to as ‘green deserts’).

Each local grounds maintenance team has identified areas where grass cutting can be reduced without impact on recreational use. Local people will also have the opportunity to comment on the suitability of certain sites and make additional suggestions via existing Neighbourhood Partnership meetings.

You can view an interactive map of living landscape features across the city from 2015. Search for features near you, and click on the coloured areas on the map to find out more. If you have suggestions for additional sites, please contact us.

It may save money as less time is spent cutting grass. However, the time saved by reducing cuts will mean that grounds maintenance teams should have more scope to look after shrubs, flower beds and hedges, as well as better maintain those grassed areas that require more frequent cuts. We plan to invest in machinery and training to enable our staff to maintain attractive green spaces that are well cared for and good for wildlife.

No. Each site will still be monitored by local grounds maintenance teams. This will include a maintenance strip being cut as standard to ensure sites retain a managed appearance. Litter will be picked and weeds will be dealt with as normal. Some areas will continue to be cut more regularly than others to ensure the sites are visually attractive.

Yes. Using local knowledge, pathways will be mown through areas of longer grass to ensure they remain accessible and can be explored and enjoyed.

All sites should be maintained to current standards. Please keep reporting all litter or dog fouling complaints to your neighbourhood team to deal with as normal. Environmental wardens can issue fines to members of the public who drop litter, dump illegally and don’t pick up after their dogs.

Parks and greenspaces

Grab your wellies, jump into your joggers, pack a picnic, grab some friends, hop on your bike, call the dog, we’re going outdoors in the City of Edinburgh Council’s parks and green spaces.

You can find out about the nature on your doorstep and the parks in your neighbourhood.

Explore Edinburgh outdoors

Project partners


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