We can’t often recreate wild flower meadows, but we can use what space we have. Road verges are ideal for encouraging wild flowers for pollinators, to store carbon, and to offer refuge for wildlife. And to enable those plant species which are dying out, to flourish. And the verges will look good. Most of Derbyshire’s verges are currently just grass. Instead, with a bit of work, there is the potential to encourage hundreds of species of plants.
Hathersage Rewilding Group (a small group, part of Hope Valley Climate Action), has been looking after 2 verges: opposite Cannonfields on Jaggers Lane, and the steep bank opposite the end of School Lane on Main Road. Derbyshire Dales District Council now mows these only once a year in early autumn (as part of their BeeKind Project), and we rake up the cut grass. If the grass isn’t removed, it rots there, encouraging coarse grasses which swamp the more delicate wild flowers. Coarse grass is taller than the flowers, reducing drivers’ sightlines, creating a more dangerous environment. Mowing only once a year gives the flowers time to set seed into the soil ready to grow new plants next year. We have been careful on Jaggers Lane to ensure the path is kept clear and safe for pedestrians.
Our little group also surveys the verges several times a year, listing the species which are now growing. So far the maximum has been about thirty. We have introduced seed and small plants from other areas nearby to increase biodiversity. Diversity is essential: for example some insects, such as the teasel moth, can only live and breed on one plant species.
These uncut verges can look untidy, especially when the flowers are over, and the seed is setting. And genuine wildflowers are subtle, never giving the display of cultivated ones. But these scruffy natural verges can offer tremendous value to nature. It’s a small step, but other villages are doing similar things throughout the country; over time it will make a big difference.
In Hathersage Rewilding Group, we share experience and knowledge with each other, and work in partnership with the Parish and District Councils. And we enjoy coffee and cake and chat as well. At the same time, Derbyshire County Council is running its “Pathfinder” project, looking at how to change verge management to increase biodiversity, and will be reviewing progress this autumn to decide how best to proceed.
If you are interested in finding out more about what we are doing in Hathersage please contact email@example.com. If you are interested in Hope Valley Climate Action the contact is: https://hopevalleyclimateaction.org.uk/
Hathersage Rewilding Group of Hope Valley Climate Action