Football club plants orchids to score its latest ecological goal

Forest Green Rovers has planted wildflower areas brimming with several orchid species around its stadium.

Forest Green Rovers groundsman Stewart Ward (image: Forest Green Rovers)
Forest Green Rovers groundsman Stewart Ward (image: Forest Green Rovers)

Plants supplied by Rigby Taylor on the west side of New Lawn stadium include the common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia), pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), as well wild flowers such as cowslip and bird’s foot trefoil.

Groundsman Stewart Ward said he had to oversee a careful management plan at the ground in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, to maintain and improve wildlife around the stadium. Fans had "picked up" on the plantlife and wholeheartedly approved.

"Over the last 10 years there’s been a significant reduction in wildlife areas like this in the UK," he said. "With the land we have around the New Lawn we have the power to do something to redress this situation.

"The planting of wild flowers has attracted more bees and butterflies and made an attractive addition to the land. The reduced mowing schedule for wildflower areas means reduced machinery usage and more time for me to work on getting the football pitch right."

The club’s sustainability manager Bruce Cockrean said other ways of improving biodiversity included nest boxes in the land around the stadium to encourage barn owls, house martins and other wild birds, solar panels on the stadium and recycled rain water from the pitch.

"Ecology and football are not often said in the same breath," he said. "But ensuring we look after the biodiversity around us here is an integral part of the wider environmental commitment we have at Forest Green Rovers."

Club chairman Dale Vince is working with former Manchester United player Gary Neville on a Sustainbility in Sport initiative, which aims to set eco-standards for stadiums, sports pitches, procurement and other activities of sports clubs.

They aim to run workshops on sustainability issues, showcase good examples such as use of wind turbines, electric robotic mowers and organic pitches, and "use the power of sport to spread information about environmental issues", said Vince.

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