Our main aims are to enhance and protect nature and wildlife, and to increase biodiversity in our local area. Two of the actions we had listed were tree planting and improving verges/grassland.
Of the sites we found in Hathersage several appeared possibly suitable for trees and we spent some time in discussion with owners. We came close to an agreement to plant trees (from The Woodland Trust) but for a variety of reasons (including Covid and the uncertainty resulting from the imminent replacement of the CAP with ELMS) this didn’t happen.
Verges and grassland
As with the possible woodland sites, the first step with verges/grassland was to find out who owns and manages them. Naively we imagined that we would be dealing with one authority but soon discovered that County, District and Parish Councils are all involved with roadside verges, and Housing Associations etc. own other areas of grassland.
Responsibility for verge management
Derbyshire County Council (DCC) are responsible for maintenance of highways throughout Derbyshire. Derbyshire Dales District Council (DDDC) and High Peak Borough Council (HPBC) are sub-contracted by DCC to mow verges in their areas. DDDC sub-contracts mowing to contractors who used to mow in three 8-week cycles throughout the Summer and early Autumn. Parish councils, like Hathersage, are responsible for a few verges within their parishes. The County, District and Borough Councils are currently reviewing their policy on verge management to improve biodiversity.
District and Parish Councils will allow individuals or organisations to take over responsibility for a verge but in practice it may be difficult to prevent their sub-contractors from mowing it anyway!
Verges the Group manage
However, the Rewilding Group met with Hathersage Parish Council who agreed that we could take over management of a verge on Jaggers Lane. Since then, liaising with The Green and Clean Team of Derbyshire Dales District Council as well as the Parish Council, we have also taken on the management of a stretch of verge on Sheffield Road. In both cases DDDC continues to mow the verges but at a time agreed with us, and we have done a lot of raking mown grass for removal, scarifying, sowing wildflower seed, and putting in plug plants, to both lower the fertility of the soil and increase the number and variety of wild flowers.
Before starting work on either of the verges we surveyed them to see what plants were already present, and we will continue to do surveys each year to assess our success in increasing the numbers and variety of wild flowers. We are also involved jointly with groups from Hope and Bradwell in surveying the verge along the main road (A6187) from Hathersage to Hope, again with the intention of finding out which management regimes improve biodiversity.
Looking ahead we hope to continue our management of the two verges, and to work with other groups when opportunities arise. We would also like to revive our plans for planting trees, but in the meanwhile we would be happy to help other groups if appropriate sites become available elsewhere in the Hope Valley.
Plantlife road verge management guideline pdfs and case studies too (including community groups and tackling collecting arisings).