Plant life

Road verge wild flowers in Hope Valley

At our zoom meeting to discuss roadside verge management the HVCA Rewilding Group heard from Kate Petty from Plantlife that we have lost 95% of our wildflower meadows. Road verges contain around 700 wildflower species, including some of the rarest species. They provide good grassland habitat, providing food e.g. insect larvae which are an important food source for wildlife.

Verges provide ecosystem services – food for pollinators, enhanced bank stability, buffers for noise and air pollution, water & flood risk management and enhanced biodiversity and contact with nature. Managing verges for biodiversity can help us tackle the climate and ecological emergency and reduce the verge management burden over time.

Plantlife’s management guidelines for local authorities managing verges are an excellent resource freely available on their website. They cover a wide range of eco-systems found on roadside verges.

Recommended mowing regimes include the traditional method of mowing twice a year. This is the ideal method because it reduces the nutrients in the soil and knocks back the coarser grasses. Alternatively, if twice is not possible mowing once a year in the late summer months allows plants the chance to set seed. A range of lengths is ok too as shorter swards can support shorter growing plants such as birds foot trefoil and self-heal. 

Yellow rattle is a plant which helps reduce the growth of coarse grasses, and therefore enables growth and diversity of wildflowers. It can take time to establish. Sowing in winter can be a good idea because it gives the seed more time to establish itself.

Where there are a lot of coarse grasses, several cut and collect mowings in the first year can be beneficial, to reduce the nutrients in the soil and promote wildflowers.  There is an organisation in Wales which has produced a review of different types of cut and collect mowing equipment.

If it is thought necessary to sow seed in rural areas, it is best to stick with local plant species which are native to the area. The Emorsgate seed company was mentioned as a good source.

Some examples of good practice illustrate a shift in public perception which is taking place. Plantlife will shortly be launching an online interactive map to record and share verge projects.

We also talked about rail tracks and canal paths Network Rail is required to make plans for biodiversity net gain for the railway network and Plantlife will be doing some work with the Canal & River Trust in the future. 

There are lots of resources and links in the app Following on from this issue we will be putting together a response to the DEFRA consultation on reducing pesticide use. Do get in touch with David at if you would like to be involved in that issue. 

Our next meeting on Wednesday the17th Feb at 7.30pm will be with Lynn Crowe from Tideswell Environment Group, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Biology at Sheffield Hallam University  and a trustee of DWT.


Here are the resources Kate Petty from Plantlife referred to in her talk this week. She has also said we are welcome to contact her at  If you did not manage to make the meeting do have a look at some of these very useful and well-presented resources from Plantlife:

Plantlife road verge management guideline pdfs and case studies too (including community groups and tackling collecting arisings).

Lists of machinery are in the Managing grassland road verge guide, and there’s a great video here too:

Examples of road verge signage here:

Blog on ‘planted designer meadows/annual mixes’ versus naturally occurring wildflowers:

Plantlife guidance and creating a meadow in your garden:

Plantlife’s website – for more information on resources for families and children

inc. wild flower spotter sheets 

Every Flower Counts – our citizen survey monitoring the flowers that grow in lawns as a way to get people engaged with nature on their doorstep

Lynne Irvine has highlighted the threat to RSPB Minsmere from the expansion of the Sizewell nuclear power station. Minsmere is a wonderful unique place and one of the few places in the country where you can hear nightingales sing. Do Speak up for RSPB Minsmere and add your voice

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