Friday, 30 May 2014

Verge warriors unite

This month, our hedgerows have been spectacular, but we plant lovers should not rest on our laurels.

Our badly managed road verges are driving presenter Alan Titchmarsh wild. He wants help to convince councils to adopt better guidelines to save wildlife – and save money.

Why are road verges so important?
Every summer, an organisation called Plantlife hears from despairing supporters, upset that a favourite flower-rich verge has been destroyed. In a matter of minutes, a bank covered in beautiful native species is reduced to a shorn strip. It’s heartbreaking stuff for plant lovers, but even worse for our hungry pollinators and other wildlife.

On the Plantlife site, they explain how road verges are the life-giving arteries of the countryside, linking habitats and acting as vital corridors for wildlife to thrive on. They also represent a remnant of our native grassland which has suffered catastrophic losses over the last century.

They can act as buffers to some of the most impoverished areas, be they six lane motorways or intensively farmed fields.

Did you know that combined with railway edges they are the single most viewed habitat in the country, giving millions of people every day direct contact with the changing seasons and colours of the countryside? They also provide distinct local character to each region, from the flower rich hedgebanks of Devon to the heather covered moorland verges of Yorkshire.

When managed correctly road verges can support remarkable diverse collections of species. The good news is that good management often involve simply doing less, allowing the verge to develop and plants to set seed before cutting takes place.

Plantlife has been working with Worcestershire CC – managing road verges with Deptford Pink and Tower Mustard; Hampshire CC – devising management plans for Tower Mustard, Broad-leaved Cudweed and Narrow-leaved Helleborine verges; East Sussex CC – liaison though Spiked Rampion project; and Kingsteignton DC – liaison on management of Deptford Pink verge.

Pop along to the website and see if your county council has signed up. Mine hadn’t – but it only took a minute to register a suggestion. You can sign up here.

If you’ve seen unwarranted council activity in the verges, take a photo and send it to Alan's Verge Warriors campaign at Plantlife.

By Pamela Kelt

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