Submitted by AJ Cann on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 15:41
    Road verge

    Can you help NatureSpot improve the biodiversity of road verges in Leicestershire? More...

    NatureSpot is once again helping Leicestershire County Council and a number of parish councils with a project to improve the biodiversity value of selected road verges in Leicestershire. The project is a trial to change the mowing regime, remove the cuttings and possibly add new wildflower seed or plants, and then to monitor the success of these actions on the biodiversity of the verge. We are seeking volunteers to visit one (or more) of these verges to record the wildflowers and grasses, plus any other species seen on the site. Just one visit is needed, ideally during the first two weeks of June. The selected verges are not very large and are located around villages across Leicestershire (see the list below). We can offer help with identification and if you would like, we can try to match you up with another volunteer who can work with you. Full guidance will be provided. If you think you might be able to help, then please get in touch: dnicholls@naturespot.org.uk

    verge list

    Importance of road verges
    In the UK we have lost 98% of traditional wildflower meadows and in many areas road verges now represent the only remaining habitat of this type. They are therefore vital refuges for many wildflower and grass species. As they flower they provide important feeding sites for pollinators and other invertebrates. The taller vegetation structure also offers a vital habitat for yet more species, providing food, shelter and the appropriate micro-climate.

    Verge management
    The management of road verges in Leicestershire is the responsibility of Leicestershire County Council. A 1m ‘visibility’ strip is regularly mown along the carriageway and a wider area mown at key junctions. The remainder is managed less frequently and where mown the grass cuttings are left in place. Whilst leaving grassland to ‘nature’ can have some benefits, without any cutting it gradually becomes swamped by the more vigorous and robust species, squeezing out many of the smaller plants. Ideally the verges would be left to flower and set seed between April and August, then cut in September with the cuttings removed to prevent the build up of nutrients which favour the larger species. 

    The Verge Improvement Project
    One of the aims of the County Council’s revised Environment Strategy is to improve the biodiversity value on Council managed land and the road verges offer an opportunity to do this. The project began last year when 13 parish councils offered to get involved and take over the management with the aim of improving their biodiversity value. The verges were left unmown between April and August and then the cuttings removed after a late mowing. This year the number of parish councils taking part has grown to 41 involving 54 verges. As last year, NatureSpot is supporting the project by asking our recorders to help survey the verges. For the new verges we want to find out which species are already present. The surveys in 2020 revealed a surprising diversity on some verges whereas others would benefit from enhancement with wildflower seed or plug planting. We now want to see if the flora of these verges has changed.

    Wild Places

    We also want this information to be shared with the local communities in order to make people aware of the project and the benefits. A key aim is to help educate the wider public about the importance of local land and how this can provide a sanctuary for our struggling species. There is a need to break away from the expectation that all grassland has to be close mown and the change in management to these verges can help. To help promote and communicate the project, every verge has its own Wild Place page. If you can help with the survey work then your records and photos will appear on the respective Wild Place verge page. Parish councils are promoting these pages to their local communities to help inform, and hopefully engage, residents in their parish.