Verging on Wild: the Herefordshire road verge campaign
Verging On Wild are working with Herefordshire Council, Balfour Beatty Living Places, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and several other wildlife organisations to help improve the biodiversity of roadside verges in Herefordshire.
Usually verges are cut twice during the season however the Council are working with Verging On Wild, a campaign run by a group of volunteers, and won’t be cutting some areas yet to benefit the wildflowers and natural habitats. Herefordshire Council are keen to stress that this will only be in locations where it won’t affect road safety.
We want to see a change in verge management across the county and we want to protect the best verges by listing them as Roadside Verge Nature Reserves (RVNRs) and managing them for biodiversity.
You will see signs with ‘DO NOT CUT YET – verge managed for wildlife’ at these locations. This may take a few seasons to establish, but these verges will quickly become important wild spaces that can also provide some colour and interest for residents to enjoy.
One Roadside Verge Nature Reserve close to Ross-on-Wye is on the A449 at Old Gore. It is a fragment of calcareous grassland with a mass of meadow flowers including common spotted orchid, devil’s bit scabious, fairy flax and meadow vetchling.
Protection for our rich and varied verges
Road verge flora is deteriorating in many parts of the UK – 87 of the verge species are facing possible extinction – including favourites like harebell, field scabious and ragged robin. The decline is caused by the way we cut and manage verge habitat and the increasing fertility of roadside soils.
Cutting begins in the spring and is repeated in the summer so that few plants have a chance to set seed before the mowers arrive. Summer flowering plants, many of which typify our beautiful hay meadows, are disappearing from our verges.
The result of this mowing regime and the practice of leaving the cut vegetation to rot down in situ, has caused a decline in roadside species and an increase in weed species such as nettles, cow parsley and hogweed. This is bad news for wildflower numbers and diversity. It is also bad for populations of bees, beetles and butterflies that rely on these plants for food, and for the birds that eat these invertebrates.
There are nearly 300,000 miles of rural roadside verges in the UK, so if this decline can be reversed, the contribution to nature will be huge. Rural verges are equal to half our remaining grasslands and meadows, so if we can change verge management to benefit wildlife, it will make a significant difference. A rural county like Herefordshire can make a great contribution to this with good verge management.
For more information visit: https://www.herefordshirewt.org/projects-0/verging-wild?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=Orlo