Verging on Wild: the Herefordshire road verge campaign
Verging on Wild is a group of volunteers working to improve biodiversity on our roadside verges.
We are working with Herefordshire Council, Balfour Beatty Living Places, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and several other wildlife organisations. 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.
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.
Reversing the decline – “Cut Less, Cut Later”
Plantlife, the UK’s wild plant conservation body, is behind a national project proposing a new wildlife friendly approach to managing verges. They produce clear verge management guidelines for landowners, local councils and authorities, the gist of which is “cut less, cut late".
In Herefordshire in 2018, three friends decided to take action to improve our local verges and “Verging on Wild” (VOW) was formed. VOW is now affiliated to Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and working to encourage Herefordshire Council, Parish councils and their contractors to follow the best practice guidelines. Herefordshire Council and Balfour Beatty Living Places are now considering changes to the verge management in Herefordshire.
Herefordshire’s listed verges
Verging on Wild is also working to reinstate good management for a list of special verges which are the best wild flower verges in the county. These are called Roadside Verge Nature Reserves (RVNRs). VOW is organising groups of volunteers to do signage, monitoring and management on the listed sites. Many enthusiasts have already proposed their own local sites which have now been surveyed and added to the list for their protection.
It is wonderful to see these verges in flower and alive with bees and butterflies, so if you would like to be a verge guardian and help look after a listed verge near you, please contact Verging on Wild.
- See “The good verge guide” and “Managing grassland road verges” here https://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/roadvergecampaign/management-guidelines
- Sign Plantlife’s petition here https://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/roadvergecampaign
- Watch a brilliant presentation on verges from Phil Sterling of Butterfly Conservation here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo1TnRX4cXk&feature=youtu.be