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Road verge news

More good news for road verges

More good news for road verges

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Latest news from the verge: what’s happening where?

Latest news from the verge: what's happening where?

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Spring update

Spring update

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7 out of 10 Councils Prefer Well-Managed Verges?

7 out of 10 Councils Prefer Well-Managed Verges?

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Spring into Action on road verges

Spring into Action on Road Verges

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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A new lease of life!

A new lease of life!

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Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

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The Road Verge Campaign Accelerates…

The Road Verge Campaign Accelerates...

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Urban road verges: how to please everyone…

Urban road verges: how to please everyone...

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Good news from Wales

Good news from Wales

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Road verges in the time of Coronavirus

Road verges in the time of Coronavirus

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“On the Verge” conference

"On the Verge" conference

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2020: a blooming year for road verges?

2020: a blooming year for road verges?

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Road Verge Campaign update

Road Verge Campaign update

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Another busy few weeks for the road verge campaign!

Another busy few weeks for the road verge campaign!

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New Guidelines Launched!

New Guidelines Launched!

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A fantastic response over the last month

A fantastic response over the last month

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The Road Verge Campaign Blossoms…

The Road Verge Campaign Blossoms...

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News from Herefordshire, Surrey and Wrexham

News from Herefordshire, Surrey and Wrexham

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Your voices are being heard!

Your voices are being heard!

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2019 Road Verge Campaign Gets Off To A Flying Start!

2019 Road Verge Campaign Gets Off To A Flying Start!

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Hi fellow road verge campaigners

Hi fellow road verge campaigners

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Plantlife’s campaign to protect wildflowers and nature on roadside verges

The 2018 campaign to get road verges managed better for nature has kicked off!

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Listen up cash-strapped councils!

How Dorset Council is saving money

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Wildflowers protected in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire County Council

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Dorset Council manages road verges better for nature

Dorset County Council

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Protecting wildflower-rich roadside verges in Shropshire

Shropshire County Council

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Road verges with nature reserves are a cut above the rest

Central Bedfordshire

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Bee Orchids to be preserved with new mowing programme

East Cambridgeshire District Council

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More good news for road verges

More good news for road verges

There’s some more good news for road verges this month…

  • Neath Port Talbot council have just approved a Bee Friendly Scheme -  the new project seeks to increase the area of wildflower grassland and give biodiversity a boost by changing the way verges and green spaces are cut.
  • Highways England have transformed sections of A64 in Yorkshire – following restoration work, two dozen species of wild flowers were found flowering in July and fragmented areas of species-rich grassland have been joined up to make more wildlife havens. 

We know how passionate you are about protecting and improving our grassland road verges for the benefit of wild flowers, pollinators and us. In the last 100 years, the UK alone has lost 97% of its meadows and other species-rich grasslands. We’ve also seen a 60% decrease in biodiversity. A third of bumblebee species are under threat of extinction, and 70% of butterfly species have seen population decline since the 1970s. Protecting and enhancing grasslands is crucial in the fight against climate change. 

Ahead of COP26, the global climate conference taking place in Glasgow in November, Plantlife has joined forces with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Butterfly Conservation to form the Grasslands+ coalition to tell politicians that grasslands hold the key to the future of our planet. 

Our growing alliance will show politicians that protecting grasslands on an international level is crucial in the fight against climate change - but we need you to be part of it.

There are grassland areas in every continent sending delegates to COP26. It is vital that grasslands are on the agenda and together we can make it happen. By committing to restoring, enhancing and protecting these habitats, world leaders can make a vital intervention in the fight against climate change.

Together we’ll build a voice too powerful to ignore.

Latest news from the verge: what’s happening where?

Latest news from the verge: what’s happening where?

Many of you have been in touch to ask what’s being done for road verges in your local area, and we’re keen to celebrate the steps councils are taking to make road verge management more sustainable and wildlife-friendly. So we wanted to share with you our map highlighting the positive progress being made on our verges. We’re hearing about new projects every few weeks – there’s so much great work happening - so don’t worry if you project isn’t yet featured. We’ll be updating the map throughout the year and featuring more case studies and local projects as we go. If you work in a local authority and want to let us know about the wildlife-friendly verge projects you are working on, please do get in touch with us. We’d be delighted to learn about your work and discuss your projects with you.

In other news, many local authorities and organisations supported Plantlife’s No Mow May, from Wandsworth, Wirral, and Winchester City Council, to North Devon, Derby City, and Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council, to name but a few. Denbighshire County Council in particular has announced 21 more verge and greenspace sites will be added to their wildflower project this year. The whole project, including the road verge nature reserves, now contributes almost 60 acres of local provenance wildflower habitats. 

Social media has been awash with pictures of wildflower-rich verges and parks - thank you so much to everyone who took part, it’s been fantastic. 

Unfortunately, there are still many pictures of verges being cut unnecessarily at this time of year when they need to flower and have the chance to set seed. If your council is collecting the grass cuttings, this can still result in flower-rich verges, but your pictures are spurring us on to keep campaigning for changes to management.

Spring update

Spring update

Whilst there’s still a wintry chill in the air, Spring has arrived and bluebells, cowslips, and cuckooflowers (also known as Milkmaids and Lady’s Smock!) are blossoming on our road verges again. We’ve been reflecting on one of the busiest winter seasons ever for the road verge campaign. It’s fantastic to see so much interest and enthusiasm for more wildlife-friendly road verges and we wanted to share some good news stories with you:Whilst there’s still a wintry chill in the air, Spring has arrived and bluebells, cowslips, and cuckooflowers (also known as Milkmaids and Lady’s Smock!) are blossoming on our road verges again. We’ve been reflecting on one of the busiest winter seasons ever for the road verge campaign. It’s fantastic to see so much interest and enthusiasm for more wildlife-friendly road verges and we wanted to share some good news stories with you.

Last month Cambridge County Council announced a new verge management plan to support biodiversity, including cutting times sympathetic to the local flora and trials of collecting grass cuttings. It has been great to work with the council teams on this and see them bring their knowledge of the verge network to add to our best practice guidance to create a really promising new plan for Cambridgeshire’s verges.

Also in the east of England, East Suffolk Council have announced 60 new wild sites, many of which are road verges, that will be part of the expanded "Pardon the weeds, we’re feeding the bees" campaign which was started last year.
And in Essex, following the successful wildlife-friendly management trials last summer, the scheme will be extended throughout Braintree Borough this year.

Over in Wales, Monmouthshire County Council are inviting local residents have their say on the management of verge and greenspaces – if you’re local do take part in the survey. And even if you’re not local to the area, you might like to have a look at the Council’s brilliant "Nature Isn’t Neat" project, which is changing how verges and greenspaces are managed and raising awareness about the importance of pollinators and wild spaces.

7 out of 10 Councils Prefer Well-Managed Verges?

7 out of 10 Councils Prefer Well-Managed Verges?

It’s been another busy few weeks for the road verge campaign. We were thrilled to see road verges in the news again a few weeks ago. Freedom of Information data gathered by The Press Association shows that 7 in 10 councils are making efforts to encourage wild flowers on road verges. We’re delighted to hear 38 councils are looking to expand on what they’ve already been working on, and a further 36 already have new plans for 2021 and beyond. This is positive news, and really shows that your voices are being heard and action is starting to happen on the ground. You can read the full story here.

Recent support on social media and from people sharing news of the campaign with friends, family and neighbours has seen the petition quickly climb past 126,000 signatures! Thank you so much for your continued support. It’s also been fantastic to see more interest from councils and local community volunteer in wildlife-friendly management following our recent Spring into Action webinar on road verges.
 
Don’t worry if you missed the Spring into Action talk. If you couldn’t make it or would like to watch it again, the recording is now available to watch online – do give it a watch to learn more about the campaign and the importance of verges, as well as our management advice and top tips on how you can get involved to save wild flowers on road verges.

Spring into Action on road verges

Spring into Action on road verges

As part of Spring into Action, Plantlife’s brand new series of events and activities, Kate Petty, Road Verge Campaign Manager, recently gave an online talk all about the importance of road verges, the campaign and guidance, and how you can get involved to save wildflower on road verges. The recording is now available to watch again.

In other news, the whole Plantlife team are delighted to have won CIEEM’s Best Practice Knowledge Sharing Award for our technical road verge management guide, Managing grassland road verges! This is fantastic peer recognition of a publication that was brought about through a wonderful partnership effort and it’s great to see some of the best practice approaches highlighted in the guide already being translated into action on the ground.

And last but not least, we’re very excited to bring you a new edition of our introductory guide to all things road verges, The Good Verge Guide. This new edition includes extra information on managing urban verges and sowing wild flower seeds on verges, as well as answering many of the most frequently asked questions and providing you with our top tips for making a difference. We hope it will give you lots of ideas and inspiration for transforming your local verges into wildlife havens. Click here to download your own copy.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Well, what a year 2020 has been. Although it has brought a great many challenges with it, there’s been lots of good news and inspiring stories on transforming road verges into havens for wild flowers and the wildlife they support.
 
With many mowers kept away during the Spring lockdown, swiftly followed by our call for #NoMowMay, lots of road verges were allowed the chance to burst into flower. This delightful show of the botanical potential of verges on our doorsteps inspired and encouraged many more people to lobby your councils to change verge management regimes for the better.
 
We’re now in touch with over 30 councils who are actively working to review, trial, or fully implement more wildflower–friendly verge management, and the show of public support this year for letting verge wild flowers bloom is spurring them on. It’s also been brilliant this year to virtually meet so many enthusiastic volunteer groups campaigning hard to restore and enhance verges and greenspace in their local areas, and we look forward to meeting more of you next year. In the new year we’ll also be bringing you exciting resources to help you know what positive progress your councils are making, what’s happening in your local area, and to provide you with our advice and top tips on making a difference.

And if you’d like to find out more about how councils and local nature partnerships in Wales are improving verges, then you might like to know about the recent Wales Biodiversity Partnership Conference which dedicated a whole afternoon session to road verge management. There are lots of brilliant talks which you can watch here, including a really interesting video on the different types of equipment used for collecting grass cuttings.
 
Another boost to verges was recently announced as Highways England brought out their new low fertility topsoil policy which will create species-rich grassland verges along new major road schemes. It’s fantastic to see our best practice management being translated into changing behaviours and actions on the ground.
 
And two other pieces of good news to take us into 2021… our technical management guide Managing grassland road verges has been shortlisted for a CIEEM best practice award  and the Road Verge Campaign will feature in BBC Wildlife Magazine’s January edition ‘50 Reasons to be Cheerful’ feature!
 
And finally, we wanted to say a huge thank you, because as a result of your incredible generosity, our recent road verge appeal has raised over £65,500. The whole team have been absolutely blown away, and it’s been wonderful to receive so many notes and letters from you along with your donations hearing of your verge connections to and memories of verge habitats. We’re busy drawing up plans for next season and beyond and can’t wait to get to work on them.  

A new lease of life!

A new lease of life!

A special road verge in North Wales got a new lease of life recently, thanks in part to your support of the Road Verge campaign! Plantlife was there to film the makeover as it happened - buckle up and watch for yourself by clicking here.

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

A year ago we launched our management guidelines, Managing grassland road verges: a best practice guide, with thanks to funding from Rees Jeffreys Road Fund and the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund, and in collaboration with highways agencies, industry partners, and other wildlife organisation. We sent copies to councils around the UK and made it freely available on our website; it’s brilliant to look back and see the impact this new guidance has had over the last 12 months. 

Numerous conversations with local authorities and contractors have resulted from the publication of these guidelines, and we’ve shared the advice far and wide, through posting out printed copies and sharing them at road verge conferences. It’s proved so popular we’ve just reprinted it - 500 copies are now available. If you’d like a copy for yourself, or to share with someone involved in verge management, you can request a copy here.

The guidelines cover everything from assessing and monitoring verges, to how best to enhance, restore and maintain them.

We also want to say a big thank you to all our supporters for your generosity. There’s been a tremendous response to our road verge appeal and we’re grateful for all your donations. If you haven’t yet had a chance to donate, there’s still some time to do so

The Road Verge Campaign Accelerates…

The Road Verge Campaign Accelerates…

Over 10,000 more signatures have been added to the campaign petition in the last few months and our inboxes have been overflowing with good news stories, enquiries, and increased support for saving wild flowers on road verges! How we manage urban road verges and roundabouts has been a hot topic on social media, with many of you sharing and debating photos of colourful pictorial meadow displays, particularly the use of long-flowering non-native flowers. Thank you so much for your continued support – it really makes a difference and is greatly appreciated by all of us on the campaign team.

It’s also been a real pleasure to take part in zoom chats with new groups springing up around the country who are keen to get involved. Thank you to all you verge advocates out there for your support of the campaign and for the work you are doing. If we can help your local group with advice and support, please do get in touch. And if you're looking for advice why not take a glance at Plantlife’s top tips on managing urban verges for both wild flowers and wildlife?
 
It’s brilliant to see this momentum translate into actions on the ground. Plantlife is moving into the next phase of the campaign to tackle the barriers to better road verge management. These can include residents’ desire for a neat and tidy appearance, councils being locked into long-term management agreements with contractors or the misunderstanding that not cutting verges at all is a good thing.

Sadly, external funding for the road verge campaign runs out in March next year. We are, of course, working hard to secure more but we would be grateful for any donations you can give.

Nearly half of our native flora now call verges home. Our campaign throws wild flowers a lifeline and if we get the plants right, all other wildlife has a chance of thriving. The value of wild flowers in the fight to conserve bees, butterflies and beetles cannot be underestimated. As pioneering councils have proven, cutting less and later also saves significant sums of money that can be redirected to other invaluable council services and helps cut down on emissions in our battle with climate change. 

If all the UK’s road verges were managed according to our guidelines, there could be 400 billion more flowers, equivalent to an extra quarter of a million acres of meadow. Just imagine!

Urban road verges: how to please everyone…

Urban road verges: how to please everyone…

Social media is buzzing with talk about road verges... From the dazzling spectacle of a planted town centre roundabout in Musselburgh enjoyed by Chris Packham, to the shock of a bright green plastic ‘road verge’ at a junction in Newcastle, it’s great to see so much passionate attention is on our verges.

Looking after urban verges and green space can be challenging.  When councils attempt to implement changes to cutting regimes to make them more wildflower and wildlife-friendly, they often receive a flood of complaints that the grass is scruffy and unkempt, resulting in neighbourhoods looking abandoned and concerns about increased littering.

The good news is that you can encourage flower-rich verges and ensure visible management. Here are our top tips:

A buzz cut for biodiversity

The vast majority of amenity grassland and urban verges may have little biodiversity value, but they have significant potential. The key to realising this lies in ‘cut and collect’ whereby highways authorities remove the grass cuttings from the site. Why? Because it reduces the fertility of the soil; wild flowers thrive in poor soils. Collecting the thatch of decaying grass removes nutrients and, over time, allows more wild flowers to thrive and less vigorous grass to dominate. Here’s the thing: verges don’t have to be long to be wildlife-friendly. Species such as clovers (Trifolium sp.), trefoils (Lotus sp.), vetches (Vicia sp.) self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) grow quite happily at ankle height and support a huge array of pollinators.

Whilst cut-and-collect can be tricky on rural road verges, it really is achievable and gives great results in urban areas. It’s already happening in places like Dorset.  Many of the urban verges there have been on cut-and-collect for around three years. Now the verges only need cutting two or three times a year ride-on collecting mowers and produce short, tidy, flower-rich verges. As well as creating a habitat for nature, this approach has saved the council money and time - what’s not to like?

Frame those picture-perfect verges

Another approach that encourages wildflowers and wildlife whilst helping to reduce the number of complaints is ‘framing’ verges - something as simple as cutting a 1-mower-width or at most 1m along the front edge of the verge frames the longer grass behind it. This lets people know that the longer grass is being left intentionally and that it hasn’t just been neglected.  This approach also has two other important benefits:

Keeping roads safe: The area of shorter grass at the front of the verge can preserve good visibility and ensure safety at junctions. We recently saw a fantastic post on Twitter highlighting this technique at a road junction in Ceredigion.  It also keeps footpaths through green space open and accessible. 

Structural diversity: The two different heights of vegetation - short in the front and long at the back - are great not only for plant diversity (some species are naturally low growing, others tall) but supports lots of insect life too. 

Communicate…

Don’t forget to communicate any changes to verge management.  Flower-rich verges are increasingly popular with local communities and are a great way of encouraging wildlife into the heart of the built environment. Verge signage, like framing verges, makes clear that wilder verges are intentional and can engage local communities, helping to address negative perceptions of wilder verges.

Fostering a love of plants

It’s fantastic to see so many of us excited and interested in flowers on verges.  Whether you’re drawn to plants because of their beauty, or because of the wildlife they attract and support – or both! - let’s embrace all efforts to transform the way verges are managed. The appearance of designer or pictorial ‘meadows’ in urban planting schemes has again sparked debate online about whether these sorts of floral display should be encouraged as they are not ‘natural’. Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist Dr Trevor Dines wrote about this last summer - do have a read of his blog.

We hope this summer continues to spark many conversations and look forward to working with councils across the UK to improve verge management.  For more information on managing grassland road verges – in town or countryside – have a look at our management guidelines published last year in partnership with governments, contractors and fellow conservation organisations.

Good news from Wales

Good news from Wales

With the warm, sunny spring it’s been an exceptional year for wild flowers, especially when so many road verges have been left uncut. In the Conwy valley, our own Dr Trevor Dines has made some remarkable discoveries on the lanes around his house. Not only has the very rare purple-ramping fumitory (Fumaria purpurea) put in appearances at several places on the waysides, but Trevor found what he describes as the largest patch of early purple-orchid (Orchis mascula) he’s seen for years. Hundreds of plants were growing on a shady verge with other nice plants like bitter vetch (Lathyrus linifolius) and sanicle (Sanicula europaea). The finds even made their way onto the BBC News website.

Now that lockdown restrictions are beginning to be eased, cutting has resumed in some areas and the loss of some magnificent floral displays is prompting more people than ever to support our road verge campaign; over 105,000 people have now signed our petition calling for better road verge management. The good news is that we’re working closely with some councils, including Denbighshire, which recently announced the creation of many new wildflower verges and meadows in the county.

Road verges in the time of Coronavirus

Road verges in the time of Coronavirus

In these challenging times, wild flowers on our verges and waysides are an uplifting sight, contributing significantly to our wellbeing. It’s been wonderful to see on social media many photos of botanical gems that people have spotted whilst out for their daily exercise; there is some solace to be found in nature.

Roads have fallen quiet as lockdown is observed, as has the drone of many councils’ mowers. Councils are under considerable pressure due to the Coronavirus crisis and many have understandably reduced grass cutting down to essential management to maintain visibility and ensure road safety. There’s hope that reduced cutting frequencies might be a silver lining for verge wild flowers, giving once-familiar flowers, such as white campion, betony, greater knapweed and harebell, the chance to grow, flower and set seed.

As well allowing precious wild flowers the opportunity to thrive, reducing cutting and adopting a more wildlife-friendly management regime will also help tackle the climate crisis. Over 300 local authorities have now declared a climate emergency, so sustaining reduced cutting regimes, as recommended in our management guidelines, will also help councils bring down carbon emissions.

We’ll do our best in the coming months to support councils in their efforts to improve verge management, and make sure we’re doing all we can to save and protect these under-appreciated, yet abundant, strips. Hopefully this summer our verges will be awash with wildflowers and we look forward to a time when we are able to get out and fully enjoy them again.

Thanks for your continued support.

“On the Verge” conference

“On the Verge” conference

Just over a month ago at the end of February, road verge experts and enthusiasts gathered in Suffolk for On the Verge, a conference organised by Suffolk Naturalist’s Society. Making the most of the extra day of the year, we were thrilled to be invited to speak about the road verge campaign and give people a whistle-stop tour through our new management guidelines. 

It was great to see presentations from experts from Butterfly Conservations, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Buglife, The People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and Peakhill Associates (who specialise in anaerobic digestion of grass cuttings), and hear updates from Suffolk and Norfolk Councils on how they’re doing more to manage their verges in a more wildlife-friendly way. Suffolk Biodiversity Service have kindly made all the presentations from the day available as pdfs. They can be viewed and downloaded here

The presentations were also recorded, and if the videos become available in due course we’ll be sure to share them with you too. In the meantime, we hope these slides will prove interesting reading for you. 

One of the highlights of the day was talking to so many people from nearby counties who are so engaged and involved in transforming verges into wildlife havens. We look forward to encouraging more action on the ground and hopefully in time they’ll be a wonderful network of local projects across the UK complementing changes councils are making. 

2020: a blooming year for road verges?

2020: a blooming year for road verges?

Winter blooms have been carpeting many verges of late - hopefully these beautiful swathes of snowdrops, primroses and other botanical beauties are heralding in a blooming year for the UK’s road verges. 

Good changes to verge management regimes have been announced by several local authorities in the last few months which is all progress in the right direction, and we’ve already got meetings in the diary this year to work with more councils. So watch this space for more good news stories and case studies appearing on our website soon. 

Letting your councils know that you’d love to see wildlife-friendly verge management made such a difference last year. We’re hoping to build on that momentum and reach over 100,000 signatures on our petition to councils this year, so please help us by continuing to spread the word about the campaign.

We had a brilliant time last weekend at the On the Verge Symposium organised by Suffolk Naturalists Society, and were thrilled to meet and talk to many of the over 150 verge enthusiasts who come to learn more about transforming verges for nature. Hearing about the projects happening and the feeling the positivity in the room for changing the status quo of verge management was really wonderful. This coupled with your support for the campaign really inspires and motivates us to see all verges management for wildlife as a matter of course. Thank you again for your enthusiasm and support.

Road Verge Campaign update

Road Verge Campaign update

2019 was a great year for the Road Verge Campaign. We had a fantastic response to the launch of our new management guidelines and have had positive conversations with many more councils including Hampshire, Surrey and Wrexham to name a few. And we were thrilled to see such enthusiasm for verges; thousands more signatures on the petition, new verge volunteer groups spring up in several counties, and photos of flourishing verge wild flowers being shared in our verge Facebook group and on Twitter.

To round off the year, I joined the Back from the Brink project reintroducing the Critically Endangered Red Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia) to road verge escarpments in Gloucestershire. Hopefully we'll see Red Hemp Nettle blooming on these verges in years to come. Working in partnership with organisations, local people and councils is key for the success of road verge management, and we're looking forward to an action-packed 2020.

As many of you already know road verges are home to 45% of our total flora and are the only place species such as wood calamint and fen ragwort grow. Over 86,000 of you have now signed the petition. This, alongside the remarkable shift in public perception, means we could see familiar flowers such as cowslip, oxeye daisy and even orchids on our journeys.

Road verges are starting to flourish once again, providing food and homes for bees, butterflies and other insects. Your voice is convincing councils to manage road verges better for nature. Returning verges to wildlife havens they once were is a tall order but one we are determined to achieve, however we need your help.

If you would like to help further please consider becoming a Plantlife member. Learn to identify more wild flowers, help make your garden a better home for wild flowers and pollinators, and hear all about the fantastic work you have made happen with your membership in your Plantlife magazine.

Another busy few weeks for the road verge campaign!

Another busy few weeks for the road verge campaign!

It’s been another busy few weeks for the road verge campaign! The new guidelines have been delivered far and wide to councils and verge groups and have received a great response. There are now also several case studies up on our website if you’d like to know more about verge projects that have been happening around the country. We’ll be adding more in the coming weeks to showcase other projects and provide extra inspiration.
 
We’ve had new interest from a number of local authorities who are keen to know more about wildflower-friendly verge management. Many of them have commented how this year they’ve seen an increase in members of the public asking them to do more for verge biodiversity, so keep up the good work of lobbying your councils - it’s working!

I’ve also been racking up the miles making visits to a trio of Welsh councils - Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham -  and I look forward to encouraging more councils to work towards implementing the good management principles we set out in our guidelines, through more meetings in the coming weeks.

And a final piece of good news… we’ve passed another milestone - the road verge petition has been signed over 84,000 times! Thank you so much for your support.

New Guidelines Launched!

New Guidelines Launched!

Today we launch our new road verge guidelines which provide a roadmap to fundamentally transform the management of the UK’s verges. This best practice guide is for all those engaged in verge management and creation and is the result of our collaboration with national highways agencies, industry contractors and other wildlife organisations.

Over 700 species and nearly 45% of our total flora are found on our road verges, and considering we’ve lost 97% of our wild flower meadows since the 1930s, these crucial habitats need to be properly managed. This year we’ve really started to see an increase in awareness of the importance and potential of road verge habitats - thank you for the work you’re doing to convince your councillors that making changes to the way verges are managed is crucial for saving wild flowers and the wealth of wildlife they support.

These guidelines build on this momentum, providing practical advice on how local authorities can fulfil their biodiversity duties whilst reducing management burdens over time, using real life examples of how good management is already being implemented on the ground. The less and later, two-cut approach suggested in the guidelines would replenish the seed bank, restore floral diversity, save councils money and provide pollinator habitat estimated to equal the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined!

From Dorset to Lincolnshire, Herefordshire to Surrey, councils are making positive steps towards better road verge management. But more needs to be done. There has been a 20% drop in floral diversity on our road verges since 1990. Red clover and lady’s bedstraw, which support some of the highest numbers of invertebrates, are experiencing a rapid decline which will have adverse knock-on effects for wildlife. Plantlife is working to reverse these declines but we can’t do it without your support. Together we can work to transform the UK’s verges. The more members we have, the bigger difference we can make.

A fantastic response over the last month

A fantastic response over the last month

It's been great to see the potential of road verges and the steps that are being taken to change the status quo highlighted in local press stories from around the UK, including YorkshireNottinghamshireLincolnshireSurrey and Denbighshire. It's also been brilliant to see so many people inspired by wildflowers and comment sections have been a buzz with questions and ideas, especially around the colourful planted verges that are popping up in urban areas. Plantlife's Botanical Specialist, Dr Trevor Dines, has written a blog all about them which you can read here.

We're seeing a growing interest in wildlife-friendly verge management from local authorities, so in the next few months we'll be busy meeting with several more councils and their highways teams to discuss our management guidelines and how they can work to adopt them. Thank you for all the work you're doing on the ground to convince your councillors that making changes to the way verges are managed can improve our verges for nature, bringing benefits for wildlife, for us and for future generations.

If you'd like to help further, and are not already, please consider becoming a Plantlife member today. The more members we have, the more conservation work we can do.

The Road Verge Campaign Blossoms…

The Road Verge Campaign Blossoms…

The importance of wildflower-rich road verges has been all over the news this week, from coverage of the campaign on the BBC News website, local news in Wrexham, radio shows in London, Wiltshire and Berkshire, to a call from The Guardian for your verge and meadow photos. It’s been wonderful to see the response and enthusiasm.

Petition signatures have jumped past 65,000 and our voices are being heard. Green Party Councillors in West Berkshire are looking into improving verges for wildlife, Essex County Council are in the process of developing a new Green Strategy which includes verge management, and Isle of Wight council have arranged an environmental forum for later this summer where Plantlife will be speaking about our management guidelines. Thank you to all of you who’ve been emailing your local councillors - we’re seeing an increasing number of enquiries and interest in our guidelines, so spreading the word and calling for change really does make a difference.

Verges can be wonderful roadside mini-meadows, a crucial habitat for wild flowers and the wealth of wildlife they support. Just look at the photo accompanying this post - of a beautiful verge in Northern Ireland that has been sensitively managed by an Ulster Wildlife partnership as part of the Plantlife-led Magnificent Meadows project. Whilst we’ve still got lots of work to do to see wildflowers thriving on verges all across the country, let’s celebrate them. 

News from Herefordshire, Surrey and Wrexham

News from Herefordshire, Surrey and Wrexham


Last month, we met with Herefordshire council, their contractors and local road verge volunteers. It was great to hear that the highways team and their contractors are planning to trial different wildlife-friendly verge management options in several Herefordshire parishes, and alongside the local volunteer group Verging on Wild, we look forward to working further with them to provide more guidance and to encourage councillors to adopt our guidelines.

In other good news, following a recent debate on changing grass cutting regimes to benefit biodiversity, councillors from Wrexham County Borough Council have invited me to attend a workshop and Q&A session so they can learn more about wildlife-friendly management of road verges. Surrey County Council are also very interested in improving the cutting regime and I look forward to giving a presentation at a meeting there next month. This positive progress is just what we want and need to happen to see a transformation in road verge management across the UK.

Your voices are being heard!

Your voices are being heard!

Signs of spring on our verges are being enjoyed by members of our verge wildflower facebook group who have been posting gorgeous photos of the cowslips, primroses, cranesbills and dandelions that are brightening up our commutes. Botanical gems are thriving in the refuges verges provide, but in many counties the mowers are fast approaching… 

However, your voices are being heard; change is happening from the ground up and we're seeing hugely positive developments across the UK. Gloucestershire County Council’s biodiversity task group will present their report asking for the adoption of better verge management to the council’s cabinet in late April.

Following a road verge supporter enquiry, we were thrilled to have a really positive conversation with Wirral Council. They’re keen to do more to encourage wild flowers on the borough’s verges and we’ll be developing this partnership and supporting them in the coming months. We’ve also been providing advice to Transport for London who are setting up a wild flower verge trial. 

The support we receive makes an enormous difference and can help ensure even more verges are cut less and later, and that verges are awash with colour throughout the year.

2019 Road Verge Campaign Gets Off To A Flying Start!

2019 Road Verge Campaign Gets Off To A Flying Start!

From Wildflower Lewes’ exciting project to bring more wild flowers to the town - which has recently seen the Town Council adopt the wildlife friendly option of two cuts a year for verges across Lewes -  to a great workshop on improving road verges held at Gloucestershire County Council in January, the awareness of wildflower-friendly verge management is growing and together we're starting to change hearts and minds.

Your support is key to the campaign - it really helps us to persuade councils to change - so please keep sharing the petition as widely as you can. Last year we reached over 50,000 signatures so let’s see how many more we can gather this year! 

As always, please do let us know about your projects and your news throughout the year either by emailing us at enquiries@plantlife.org.uk or tagging us into a social media post with the hashtag #roadvergereport.

Hi fellow road verge campaigners

Hi fellow road verge campaigners

Hi fellow road verge campaigners,

My name is Kate Petty and, thanks to your support and passion and a generous award from The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation, I have just joined Plantlife in a brand new role as the Road Verge Campaign Manager.

Over the next 18-24 months I will be persuading as many councils as possible to adopt Plantlife’s new official guidelines which will be ready in early spring. This work is supported by all the local stories you send us - whether it’s a shocking example of orchids being mown down or just the sheer number of supporters who’ve signed our petition - to help us make the case for transforming the way we manage our verges.   

I am thrilled to join the Plantlife team and I’m really looking forward to managing such an exciting campaign in order to make a difference to our wild flowers and wildlife. I can’t wait to get stuck in and look forward to keeping you all updated as the campaign progresses.

All the best,
Kate Petty

Plantlife’s campaign to protect wildflowers and nature on roadside verges

Plantlife’s campaign to protect wildflowers and nature on roadside verges

The 2018 campaign to get road verges managed better for nature has kicked off!

Already the word is getting out: you might have seen us featured on the BBC, in the Times, in the Telegraph and in the Daily Mail. If you've not yet signed the petition, please do - every signature really does count, especially on a local level as we've had councils asking how many of their citizens have been supporting the campaign. 

You can read what it's all about here and why we believe drivers' safety won't be compromised. Together we can change the way our roadsides are managed better for nature. 

Listen up cash-strapped councils!

Listen up cash-strapped councils!

Dorset County Council is one of the councils who've adopted Plantlife guidelines for better management of road verges, and has been saving money in the process too. 

In other words, both nature and your bank balance benefits from better management of road verges. 

Dorset adopted a new strategy for managing its highway verges in 2014. Since then, the council estimates it has saved £100,000 through, among other things, fewer cuts of road verges. It anticipates a further £50,000 in savings in 2017-18 (Dorset road verge pictured). 

The council's Dr Phil Sterling has written a blog on how efforts to reduce spending on maintenance includes planting the wildflower yellow rattle on their verges.  

Burnley Borough Council is another local authority that's saying no to mowing. It estimates that fewer cuts to verges has helped save tens of thousands of pounds. 

A 2017 survey showed strong backing for councils to help wildflowers, and the bees that depend on them, by cutting their grass less frequently on roadside verges and in parks.

The YouGov poll, for Friends of the Earth and Buglife, reveals that 81% of the public back the move.

You can add your support by signing our Road Verge petition to encourage more councils to keep road verges safe for wildflowers and nature.

Protect road verges for nature - add your name 

This is an updated version of an article first published in April 2017

Wildflowers protected in Oxfordshire

Wildflowers protected in Oxfordshire

Rural road verges are a vital refuge for wild flowers driven out of our farmland. In turn, wild flowers support our birds, bees and other wildlife. We want to see road verges managed better whilst remaining safe for motorists. Not only can it be done – it could save money as well...

A number of road verges in Oxfordshire have been identified as having ecological interest and have been marked with Nature Reserve posts indicating the length of the verge to be safeguarded and maintained.

Twelve of these verges lie within the Wychwood Forest area – a 120sq miles of former royal hunting forest. Three of these, along with another two promising verges and four community green spaces have been chosen as the focus of a Wychwood Project initiative to improve flora diversity and density.
 
Supported by the Wychwood Project Flora Group, Oxfordshire County Council’s Environment & Strategy Officer, the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project and enthusiastic volunteers including a retired ecologist, the initiative will gather seed using a suction vacuum and hand picking, ready for sowing in September.
 
Seed will be gathered from the most flora rich road verge nature reserves in the area, for example ‘Ranger’s lawn’ dominated by limestone loving species including salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor), milkwort (Polygala vulgaris), bee orchids (Ophrys apifera), bellflowers (Campanula sp.) and green hellebore (Helleborus viridis).
 
Sharon Williams, Wychwood Project Director says “As well as their ecological value, road verges can play an important role in bringing the countryside into people’s everyday lives.  Verges in our area make a major contribution to the beauty of the Wychwood landscape and are one of the most viewed habitats by both locals and tourists.”

► Want to convince other councils? Click here to sign our petition

Dorset Council manages road verges better for nature

Dorset Council manages road verges better for nature

Dorset County Council have recognised the importance of the relatively undisturbed nature of a verge. A wonderfully varied county, Dorset's limestone rocks contrast with some of the most important lowland heathland left in Britain. Combine these with spectacular coast you can see why the county is a botanical hot-spot. 

We are lucky to have some stunningly beautiful verges” says Graham Stanley, Senior Ranger of Dorset Countryside “with a wide range of habitats that support an even wider range of wildlife. Rare species of orchid, for example, can thrive here whereas on the other side of the hedge, in an arable, or heavily grazed field, they simply cannot.

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Dorset’s verges are lush and verdant, boasting a wide range of both familiar and rare flowers. Damp verges across the open heathlands support Dorset heather, pale butterwort, and marsh helleborine orchids, whilst a dry sandy verge nearby boasted a fine colony of lizard orchids in the recent past. The chalkland verges are often beautiful too, with local abundance of cowslips and pyramidal orchids and, just occasionally, rarities such as wood vetch and fly orchid.

Wildlife conservation can co-exist with the need for road safety” Graham adds “changing people's views on what is a safe and 'pretty' verge is one of our most important roles.

What Dorset County Council are doing

Dorset County Council have adopted Plantlife’s management guidelines and take a unique approach, with trials underway to improve biodiversity and reduce the need for cutting.

These are investigating different methods of management designed to lower soil fertility, leading to reduced grass growth and less frequent cutting and ultimately saving money. For example:

  • Stripping topsoil to expose lower-fertility subsoil or mineral rock
  • Harvesting "mini bales" from the roadside verges where possible
  • Reducing the growth of grass using yellow rattle
  • Grazing verges with sheep to mimic traditional meadow management
  • Using grass clippings as a source of fuel for biomass generators to produce rural electricity

► Want to convince other councils? Click here to sign our petition

Protecting wildflower-rich roadside verges in Shropshire

Protecting wildflower-rich roadside verges in Shropshire

Shropshire is valued for its beautiful countryside and wealth of wildlife. Its road verges are no exception - that's why its taking steps to safeguard them.

This precious 'biodiversity' is in great need of careful protection and constant management - common species such as bees and other pollinating insects, and wild flowers such as cowslips, have declined dramatically over recent years.

► Want to help nature? Click here to sign our petition

As a consequence, Shropshire County Council cut a limited width of most rural verges only once a year. By keeping the width of cutting to a minimum, the remaining verge area can provide an important habitat for wildflowers and wildlife.

Some of the best are even protected as local wildlife sites or sites of special scientific interest. If you live in Shropshire and feel there's a verge that needs protecting you can let the council know here: Reporting wildlife-rich roadside verges

► Want to convince other councils? Click here to sign our petition

Road verges with nature reserves are a cut above the rest

Road verges with nature reserves are a cut above the rest

Central Bedfordshire’s roadside grass verges are playing an important role in preserving endangered species of bees, butterflies and insects.

Along with cutting 1,100km of rural grass verge in Central Bedfordshire three times a year, recently appointed contractors Mudrock Ltd are currently looking after 16km of Road Verge Nature Reserves. They are working with the Council’s Ecologist towards adding up to 30km of additional Road Verge Nature Reserves over the next year.

► Want your verges to receive the same treatment? Click here to sign our petition

To maintain the Road Verge Nature Reserves, Mudrock will cut a narrower 1.2m swath twice a year, for safe driving visibility; owner Paul Dowling and his team will cut the full width of the verge just once a year, collecting and taking away the cuttings to promote good growing conditions for our valuable wild flowers, including the ultra rare Sulphur Clover, found at only 10 sites in Central Bedfordshire.

Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “Roadside verges offer vital refuges for rare wildlife and plants. By adopting a special cutting programme for our Road Verge Nature Reserves, we are able to do more to protect our local environment."

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Bee Orchids to be preserved with new mowing programme

Bee Orchids to be preserved with new mowing programme

Bee orchids (Ophrys apifera) discovered in Ely will be given the opportunity to flourish thanks to a new mowing programme.

The regular grass cutters for East Cambridgeshire District Council, recently found a small colony of bee orchids, which they mowed around for protection. This and other sightings were reported to the Ely Local Group of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, who completed a survey of the area, discovering many more plants in the process. A mowing programme has since been created to enhance these protected plants, with the hope that this will help them fully establish.

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As part of the new mowing programme, grass cutting will be adapted to accommodate the flowering times of the plants. The bee orchids will not be in flower until around June or July, meaning grass cutters will be careful to cut around them. The plants will then be allowed to set seed and complete their reproductive cycle before regular maintenance mowing is reinstated.

The colonies of bee orchids can mainly be found along the verges of Norfolk Road and the public open space off Beresford Road - sandwiched between Collier Close and Brooke Grove. Signs have been erected at these locations to notify the public and, where possible, attractive paths will be cut around the bee orchids in order to retain public use of these areas.

Spencer Clark, Open Spaces and Facilities Manager, said: “East Cambridgeshire District Council has been working hard with Plantlife and The Ely Local Group of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and decided to take part in the scheme for the City of Ely. This will ensure that these rare plants are protected and their colonies nurtured, while maintaining the area for recreational use.”

Dr Terry Moore, added: “The national charity, Plantlife, is promoting a scheme to preserve the roadside habitats of rare wild plants. The Ely Local Group of the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire decided to collaborate in the scheme with East Cambridgeshire District Council within the City of Ely. I am delighted to say that the plan to defer mowing of certain identified areas until these rare and wonderful plants have flowered and seeded has been agreed.”

If residents spot colonies of bee orchids, or other rare plants around the city, they can report them to Dr Moore on 01353 664745. He will then ask members of the Local Group and the Ely U3A Botany group to confirm their identity before notifying the Open Spaces team at the Council.

► Want to convince other councils? Click here to sign our petition