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Alan’s Challenge to Britain’s councils - to save road verge flowers…

This summer, the nation’s favourite gardener wants to help save Britain’s wild flowers that are under attack from councils who are mowing verges too early and too often.

May 13 2014

© Jonathan Buckley

© Jonathan Buckley

As part of Plantlife’s Flowers on the Edge campaign he is throwing down the “Alan Challenge” to councils across Britain.

Wayside flowers bring so much pleasure, colouring our towns and countryside and brightening up our daily commute. They are also incredibly important. With about 3 times more grassland on our road verges than there is left in the countryside, many road verges are the last refuge for local wild flowers - and the wildlife which depend on them. Yet, road verges are under attack: flowers are being mown down in full bloom, sprayed off with poisons, or smothered with cuttings.  Over time, only plants such as thistles, docks and coarse grasses can survive this onslaught. 

Alan Titchmarsh comments: "It’s an important and hugely worthwhile campaign. The road verges near where I live have some really gorgeous displays of wild flowers but they are sometimes being mown down in their prime.  This deprives wildlife of food, us of their beauty and, in the end, unwittingly contributes to the eventual loss of the flowers altogether. We have lost 98% of our wildflower meadows; let's look after the slivers that are left."

Councils can take up ‘The Alan Challenge’ and manage out-of-town road verges following these three simple guidelines from Plantlife:

  1. Cut the full width of the verge once a year, no earlier than the end of August and no later than the end of March. Where a road passes through woodland, cutting should be carried out no later than the end of January.
  2. Between the beginning of April and the end of August, do not cut the verge except to maintain sight-lines or for other road-safety purposes.
  3. Gather and remove cuttings wherever possible.

Plantlife’s Andy Byfield believes that “With the right management as a matter of course, our road verges could be invaluable havens for wildlife: these ribbons of flowers would bring colour to the countryside, and would provide flyways for essential pollinators such as bees.  Yet all too often members of the public tell us of verges cut at their flowering best. We understand the many pressures facing councils but urge them to sign up and take on our guidelines or at the very least work with us to reassess their current procedures, even the smallest tweaks to what they are currently doing could make a huge differnence and save them money!"

Plantlife are also urging members of the public to sign up to “Alan’s Army

  1. Add your name to our petition calling for better road verge management.
  2. Download your road verge warrior tool kit so you are armed with all the information and advice on what you can do to help.
  3. Send in your before and after pictures of road verges in bloom and after they have been cut.

To find out more about the campaign, contact: Justina Simpson by email or on 07584 995 929.