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Wildflower-rich habitats are amazing spaces that can improve biodiversity, store carbon and improve air quality. They provide a great service to the community by reconnecting people with nature and celebrate the local natural heritage of an area.
By bringing the community with you – taking the necessary steps of safety, communication, ‘framing’ the verge and a ‘managed for nature’ approach – you can create a wildflower-rich habitat that works for everyone.
Health and safety are a priority for road verges – it is important to maintain clear sightlines, pull-over zones, and safety standards. We can achieve this by cutting roadside edges and visibility splays where necessary but mowing verges less frequently and later where it is safe to do so.
By ‘framing’ the verge or a greenspace area with a short cut, a wildflower-rich habitat can be allowed to grow, whilst maintaining safety standards and meeting public expectations. ‘Framing’ cuts give a crisp and cared-for appearance which should reduce negative perceptions of what may otherwise be regarded as ‘neglected’ areas.
Early engagement of local communities is crucial. Raising awareness and increasing understanding of the benefits for cost, carbon and wildlife will encourage acceptance of changes to green space management. This has successfully been achieved by:
Managing a short, flowering lawn, cut every 6-8 weeks, will support some species that do not grow so tall, such as dandelion, clovers, trefoils, selfheal, and yarrow. These wild, perennial species will re-flower between cuts because they have evolved to cope with wild grazing animals. Although shorter swards cannot provide shelter and food for all life stages of wildlife through the year, they can still support abundant nectar and pollen sources for pollinators. Complementing these areas with areas mown less frequently is essential.
Flowering lawns are often best suited to framing functional areas such as paths or recreation grounds or can be the safety strips at roadsides. If conditions are fertile to start with, maintaining a flowering lawn with a collection of cuttings can be a way to transition towards a wildflower meadow habitat over time as fertility is reduced from year to year.
Communities are often concerned that verges and green spaces will be abandoned and left to grow in the name of nature conservation, and many people are often upset when they are mown.
However, for wild flowers to thrive and survive, they need management. This was provided historically by wild animals, livestock and hay-cutting. In our modern, urban spaces, grassland areas require our well-timed management to provide the best biodiversity they can support.
Signs, posters, and informative webpages can help to address these concerns and show that sites have neither been abandoned when they have not been cut, nor destroyed when they have been cut; but are being ‘managed for nature’.
To learn more about the best practice guidance and how to manage a space for nature see Road Verge and Greenspace Best Practice Management.
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