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There could be reasons why Local Authorities cut in May, but to restore our native wildflowers, councils need to make long-term commitments to transforming their management of road verges and green spaces.
Have a look at the amazing work done by local authorities in the UK below:
Since 1960, Lincolnshire County Council has partnered with the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust to protect 80km of the county’s best verges as Roadside Nature Reserves. Between 2009 and 2015, citizen science surveys resulted in the designation of Local Wildlife Sites along a further 300km of road verge accounting for nearly 100ha of wildflower-rich habitat. The survey also identified 90% of the network with fewer wildflowers because verges were being cut too often or not often enough and cuttings were not being collected.
In 2018, successful trials of biomass harvesting from road verges and green energy generation from the cuttings provided insight into new ways roadside vegetation management might improve roadside grassland biodiversity, reduce carbon footprint and even pay for itself with the revenues generated. Lessons learned from these trials have been critical to a successful bid to the Department for Transport for a £4M LiveLabs2 project now underway to continue this research on a larger scale with South Gloucestershire and West Sussex in partnership with Plantlife.
Dorset Council has implemented a cut-and–collect approach to urban mowing across the north of the county. Removing the grass cuttings reduces soil fertility and prevents dominant grasses and herbs from suppressing wildflower growth. As vegetation growth diminished each year with reducing fertility, it was possible to drastically reduce the frequency of cutting from 7 to 2 times per year leading to a 45% saving in mowing costs within 5 years. This enabled the investment in new mowing machinery to be paid back within a viable timeframe.
‘Nature Isn’t Neat’ is a project that was initially piloted by Monmouthshire County Council and funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities fund under the LEADER measure of the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 and has slowly been expanding to other areas of the county. A key element of the project was changing the way the County Council manages its grassland on verges, and in open spaces and parks to create space for nature. There was strong public support for the changes to grass mowing, and the appearance of many more wild-flowers during the spring and summer of 2020.
The Welsh Government set up a Local Places for Nature Initiative offering capital grants to buy equipment such as cut-and-collect machines to improve grassland restoration. The lessons learned from the ‘Nature Isn’t Neat’ pilot led to a successful bid to the National Heritage Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government for a grant that enabled purchase of ‘cut and collect’ machinery capable
’Nature Isn’t Neat has gone on to form part of the Gwent Green Grid Partnership (GGGP), a three-year project running from March 2020 to March 2023. The partnership includes the five Local Authorities of Gwent (Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport and Torfaen), as well as Natural Resources Wales, Forest Research and Severn Wye Energy Agency. The partnership will bring to life the Gwent Public Service Board’s commitment to implementing the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and the Environment (Wales) Act through improved collaboration with partners, involving local citizens and delivering across all seven well-being goals. It will also help act as a delivery mechanism for the Southeast Wales Area Statement working with Natural Resources Wales. The GGGP aims to enhance the biodiversity of green infrastructure in the Gwent area, providing real benefits to local communities. Local communities are engaged in initiatives to promote a pollinator friendly approach to grassland management.
The project is supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe Investing in Rural Areas and is funded by the Welsh Government’s Enabling of Natural Resources and Wellbeing Grant.
Denbighshire Wildflower Project has also been successful in procuring new mowing machinery from the Welsh Government’s Local Places for Nature Initiative and you can learn more about their work here – Denbighshire Wildflower Project.
Community support has been a successful approach in the past, a great example is in Edgton, Shropshire where a local community worked together to survey all verges in their village and identified wildflower species of interest. The survey then enabled them to produce a colour coded map to provide as evidence to local authorities. They were then able to successfully agree new cutting regimes with the South Shropshire Highways Department.
A downloadable guide on creating and managing species-rich grassland of road verges
Downloadable guide to good verge maintenance
Read about the work Plantlife are doing year round to encourage appropriate verge management
At Plantlife we aim to support and enable local authorities to overcome the barriers to making this a reality across the UK road verge and greenspace network.
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