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Road Verge Rage!

Posted on 16th May, 2018

It always leaves me amazed and in wonder; an early evening stroll from East Farleigh Station along the lovely magical River Medway, a right turn at the top of St. Helen's Lane and I'm heading home towards West Farleigh, picking up the gentle but unmistakably enchanting scent of freshly cut grass, and then catching sight of the neat precise finish left behind by the grass cutters at the junction of Kettle Lane and Lower Road, at this point I'd be hard pushed to think of anything that would top this.


But how about this, if the Lower Road Layby 'Island' was cut at the same time along with Hoppers Corner at the foot of Charlton Lane (and the steep banked verges on the left towards Teston) then I would almost be in paradise, but no, even after all these years, all of the above including the Village Green & it's verges at the top of the Village as well as the 'triangle' just below, all appear to be cut at different times in different ways by varying bodies leaving an inconsistancy to the village..


Shame, if we were joined up how good would that be and not just from a visual viewpoint but also from a conservation & wildlife viewpoint ! This led me to a spot of interweb surfing and I came up with the following quote from John Burton, Country Life, 1973:


“Throughout the spring and summer the wild flowers of our country roads and lanes delight all who walk or drive them – or rather one would think that they delight everyone, but this is clearly not entirely so because each year, at the height of their glory, mile upon mile of them are ruthlessly cut.” 


During my daily commute into London, whilst looking for more information on these much loved areas of 'no mans land' I discovered a group called 'Plantlife' who seem to have nailed it; I've taken the liberty of cutting an extract from their latest publication, and will post a link to their website at the end of this article; happy reading, and do leave any ideas, comments you may have;


Taking a different approach, Plantlife’s vision for Britain’s road verges is one where all verges are managed for wildlife as a matter of course, restoring and expanding flower-rich habitats along our road network. This will ensure the survival and natural spread of both common and rare species, for their own sake, for the sake of the wildlife they support and environmental benefits they bring, and to enhance the contact with nature experienced by users of Britain’s road network.


We know that verges are under considerable pressure. Priorities for safety and access, along with budget constraints and difficulties with the collection of litter and grass clippings all mean that enhancing their wildlife value is often low on the list. But we believe that the adoption of a few basic principles can significantly improve the biodiversity on our verges, bringing benefits for wildlife, for us and for future generations.


Basic road verge management  for enclosed, grassy verges: 

The following should be undertaken on all enclosed  grassy road verges (apart from those areas, such as junctions,  where safety is a priority)


We have developed two main management prescriptions:


The first A. Basic road verge management is aimed at all enclosed grassy verges in the lowlands, regardless of current condition.


The second B. Enhanced road verge management is aimed at sections of verge that are still rich in wild flowers, such as Road Verge Nature Reserves. We have also provided advice on the management of other types of road verge habitats.


If only one cut is possible: Cut the full width of the verge once a year, between mid-July and the end of September. This allows plants to flower and, importantly, gives time for seed to be set.


If more cuts are required, do one of the following: Cut the full width of the verge between mid-July and the end of September. Then cut once more before Christmas. This is the ideal option to conserve and enhance wild flowers, as it mimics the pattern of traditional meadow management.


Or... Cut the full width of the verge as early as possible, during February and March. This is before most verge plants flower and it won’t disturb ground-nesting birds. Cut the full verge again during September and October. This slightly later date for the second cut allows plants that were cut earlier in the year sufficient time to flower and set seed.


If it is not practical or desirable to cut the whole width of the verge: On large verges, cut a 1 metre strip at the edge of the verge as early as possible – during February and March. This allows grass at the back of the verge to grow longer, providing a diversity of habitat that is especially important for invertebrates.


Or... On small verges of less than 1 metre, leave some sections uncut, for example 100-metre sections every 200 metres. In both these cases, cut the full width of the verge during September and October.


There is much much more........ I'll be persuing this with our local authorities to find out their views and see if they are onboard for any change.


Plantlife can be found at https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk


If you made it this far, many thanks, you deserve a cup of tea (at least)!


Ed Boyd



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Comments (4)

You are preaching to the converted here, Ed. Why do cash-strapped local authorities - parish / borough / county councils - insist on spending money destroying such a valuable wildlife resource? There may be those who think verges should look like a croquet lawn, but most people are delighted to see wild flowers and their attendant insects.
Maidstone's Borough Plan talks (occasionally) about providing biodiversity corridors, but it seems we are happy to destroy the existing ones. Many roadside verges retain relict populations of now scarce wild plants and insects, and these are unlikely to be replaced in the 'green corridors' provided at minimal cost by a housing developer. I hope you'll keep us up to date on your pursuit of the local authorities.
Greta write up Ed, thanks for sharing.....
Yay! Well said, more as nature reserves
Great article Ed - I hope the powers that be will listen!