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1) Who is ultimately responsible my road verge?

Apart from major trunk roads (motorways and some A roads which are the responsibility of the Highways Agency in England, the Transport Directorate of the Welsh Assembly in Wales and Transport Scotland in Scotland) the local highways authority (or 'roads' authority in Scotland) is responsible for managing road verges. The authority may be the district, county or unitary authority, depending on the local situation. Verge cutting is usually carried out by a highways contractor, or may sometimes delegated to a parish council or local contractor. The councils listed on our map are, to the best of our knowledge, those who are legally responsible for the maintenance of non-major trunk road verges whether they actively manage them themselves or contract the work out.

2) What about health and safety?

Many road verges are regularly cut to maintain clear lines of visibility – this is particularly crucial at junctions where a ‘visibility splay’ has to be maintained at all times – on busy roads this also applies to the first metre from the edge of the carriageway. Safety must come first on our roads, but with the size of most road verges there should be no conflict between this and conservation. For many verges a regular annual cut and removal of mowing will keep the verge open, safe and thriving with interesting wildlife.

3) I/my parish/community group are in control of collecting arisings and/or I want to impress on my council the importance of collecting arisings what is your advice?

If grass clippings  ('arisings') are left following verge mowing, they tend to increase the fertility of the soil encouraging weedy vegetation such as nettles and coarse grasses, as well as smothering more delicate species and reducing the ability of desirable plants to increase from seed. Therefore, wherever possible, it is hugely beneficial if councils can remove clippings.

Some councils will have access to special machinery that can do this but sometimes arisings will be left due to budget restraints or other difficulties. The easiest way to collect arisings is to rake them up using a grass-rake or hay-rake, and then either stack them out of the way at the back of the verge, or remove them from site - perhaps for local composting.

4) My Council have taken Alan’s Challenge, but they are out mowing – why is this?

All roadside verges need mowing at some point in the year. If this wasn’t done, shrubs like hawthorn and trees like sycamore quickly grow, shading out wild flowers as well as impacting road visibility and safety. Our campaign is asking that mowing in spring is delayed until flowers have had a chance to set seed and spread. Precisely when this first mowing takes places depends on several factors, including the type of grassland on the verge, climate and location (it will be earlier in warmer springs and further south). Inevitably, it can take place when some plants are still in flower, but if it’s generally after the middle of July  most of the plants will have set seed. Have a look at our Road Verge Management guidelines to learn more about how road verges are best managed for their wild flowers.

5) Should I go out on my own verge myself to take action on behalf of your campaign?

No! Verges can be dangerous places!  We are not asking members of the public to go out onto their local verges to maintain them.  It is much better to contact your council and inform them of the  need for appropriate management.  The council will then be able to advise their own verge maintenance contractors.

Councils sometimes employ contractors who may not be aware of an existing scheme or project that has been agreed to protect wild flowers. It might be worth checking with your council that any new contractor who comes in is aware of exactly where and when the road verges need to be cut (or not cut!).

If you are aware of a road verge which is especially rich in wildflowers or has rare flowers on it then contact your council to provide the location and if possible a photo. Many councils have told us they would welcome advanced warning so they can let contractors know to take extra care.

6) Can I adopt and/or volunteer to manage a section of road verge?

As we said in Question 4 (above) it is illegal to carry out unofficial or unauthorised work on a road verge, no matter how good your intentions. This includes planting wildflowers. However, there are official ways in which you may be able to contribute:

  • Contact your local council and find out if there is a protected road verges programme and whether you can talk to the coordinator.
  • If you live in England you can offer to become a road verge monitor for your local council. Even if you don’t know a verge you may be assigned one locally to you. It’s a fantastic way to become acquainted with wildflowers and protect a bit of local biodiversity. Most counties hold training days to learn about plants and meet fellow volunteers.

7) I/my group would like to become a Verge Warrior group - what should we do?

  • First check you (or your members) have joined Alan’s Army? Not only will your names be automatically be added to our petition, we will also send you a pack that will aid you in your cause. For example: why not ask your group to display the poster in their windows or local community centre?
  • Keep your eyes out for when verges are being maintained and where possibly take before and after photographs and perhaps make a note of any activity if you are concerned.
  • Keep local decision-makers, such as councillors, informed of our campaign and latest guidelines. Let us and them know of any unusual flowers you spot on your verge (please see safety guidance notes).
  • To help us run this campaign year-on-year you may like to think about joining Plantlife or letting a friend who is campaigning know. More information about our membership can be found at

8)  I/ would like to plant seeds and improve my local verge. How can I do this and what would you advise us to plant?

Plantlife only encourages seeding and planting as a last resort. Whilst wildflower seed mixes and plant plugs have their place, it’s often better to leave verges alone and let species colonise them naturally. In this way, they will retain the local character of our flora which makes our countryside so special: a Norfolk roadside, with green-winged orchids and sulphur clover, is different to an Argyll verge with lesser butterfly orchids and whorled caraway. These species are often better suited to the local climate and soil conditions, which might not be the case with the flowers in a seed mix. To find out more read our leaflet “Keeping the Wild in Wildflower” available free to download here.

The key to establishing good verges is to ensure that conditions are favourable to colonisation by wild plants.  Soils with a low fertility are best as high nutrient levels encourage the growth of coarser perennials (such as nettles and cow parsley) at the expense of a greater range of smaller, more desirable species (including many orchids).  Timing of mowing is critical too: it is not only important to allow plants to flower, but it is also essential to let them seed and die down naturally.  Collecting the cut clippings helps too: cut material returns undesirable nutrients to the soil, thereby enriching them and encouraging coarse herbage; and also blankets the ground reducing the bare ground for desirable species to seed in.

So, generally, if the management and soil conditions are right, wild plants will naturally colonise, ably aided by speeding cars and lorries that move seeds around in their slipstreams!  If sowing is essential, then try to establish the type of grassland that would be natural for your area; if possible, use seed collected from a nearby natural grassland (with the land owner’s permission).  A small quantity of introduced seeds may be all that is needed to allow wild flowers to increase and prosper.

9) What else can we do to help with the Road Verges Campaign?

Thank you for your interest in being a verge warrior! You can help the campaign further by doing a number of things:

  • Lobby your own council - follow the links on our website to find out how your council are doing. If you think they could be doing better and haven't yet taken Alan's Challenge, then you can email them directly from our website. Let your parish representatives or community council know of our campaign - you can download our toolkit and inform your community of our plight to raise awareness
  • Contact your local MP (or MSP in Scotland): A full list of who's who in government can be found here
  • Contact your local press
  • Involve your local community, get the backing of your village, ask your community to back our campaign and you can even share our campaign with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter
  • Download our poster and display in your window - but why not ask if you can display it on our village noticeboard, at a community centre or local library? Or take to a local fete or event.