According to Plantlife, over 700 species of wildflower grow on the UK’s road verges – nearly 45% of our total flora. And where wildflowers lead, wildlife follows… a multitude of bees, butterflies, birds and bugs. There are nearly 500,000 kilometres of rural road verge in the UK. This is equal to half of our remaining flower-rich grasslands and meadows: their potential is enormous. For 23 million commuters, road verges can be their only daily contact with nature.
Getting local councils and landowners on side
SECA members could rally behind this by starting a conversation with our local councils and landowners to see if they can rewild an area of their land and allow wildflowers to flourish.
Plantlife have produced an excellent report – Managing Grassland Verges – A Best Practice Guide – with loads of useful information on both the theory and practice of managing verges for biodiversity. For example, here’s some tips on when to cut verges:
- If you are only cutting the verge once a year, do it between August and September and remove the cuttings. This allows plants to flower and, importantly, gives time for seed to be shed.
- If you’re doing summer and autumn cutting, cut the majority of the verge between mid-July and September to mimic the pattern of hay meadow management. Randomly leave some areas (10-20% of the area) uncut to leave some flowering plants for pollinating invertebrates. Then cut the entire area again from October to December to remove late season growth.
- Another option is winter and autumn cutting. Cut the verge during February and March. This is before most verge plants flower and it will not disturb ground-nesting birds. Raising the cutter bar on the back cut will lower the risk to amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. Then Cut the verge again during September and October. This slightly later cutting date allows plants that were cut earlier in the year time to grow and set seed.
Letting verges grow can save councils a lot of money. Rotherham Borough Council in South Yorkshire has planted eight miles of wildflowers along the roadside verges to create a ‘river of flowers’ and saved themselves £25k.
Plantlife have created an online tool to send a letter to your local council to urge them to rewild their verges. So this is one way of getting the message across. But approaching councillors in person may be even more effective, as we’ve learned that the personal touch really helps.
What about household verges?
This initiative could be extended to householders as well as councils. Keeping a ‘tidy verge’ outside our houses is part of a culture we inherited from our parents. But when people wake up to the biodiversity benefits of letting things run a bit wild, and with a bit of nudge from local campaign groups, surely this could begin to change.
(with thanks to Win at Transition Bookham for this idea)
Please send your ideas for future SECA Monthly Actions to firstname.lastname@example.org
STOP PRESS – Check out the Greenhavens Network!
Since posting this blog, we’ve heard about the amazing work that Greenhavens Network are doing. They were set up to support community groups who are volunteering to protect your green spaces and bring them to life, we currently represent over 75 community groups, stretching from Telscombe to Seaford in East Sussex. They are doing loads of work protecting verges and other green spaces. Take a look at their website to find out more!