The RSPB wants to bring back the colour to the roadsides of East Riding by returning verges to their former glory.
Road verges in the UK are home to around 700 species of wildflower, many of which are important for a range of birds and insects. But poor management of verges in recent years means that many of these flowers are vanishing, together with much of the wildlife that depends on them.
In East Riding, a lot of the verges are designated as nature reserves and East Riding of Yorkshire County Council (ERYCC) managed them specifically for the benefit of plants and wildlife. However, this has largely stopped in recent years owing to funding cuts.
RSPB volunteers Gayna Wallis and Gill Reid surveyed 22 miles (35km) of verges in East Riding and found that a lot of them were in poor condition. This was either the result of too much cutting, which has prevented plants from flowering and setting seed or not enough cutting, which has resulted in the dominance of only a few species like cow parsley.
The pair did find some verges with a good variety of plants such as orchids, cranesbills and lady’s bedstraw but these still need to be cared for in a different way to secure their long-term future.
Although verge management is the remit of ERYCC, farmers and parish councils are often given the power to take on this role. Chris Tomson from the RSPB in East Yorkshire is calling on them to help verges flourish once again by making some simple changes to how they cut them.
Chris Tomson, said: “The great variety of flowers that used to transform our roadside verges into vivid seas of colour during summer are vanishing at a worrying rate. Yet, the solution to bringing these flowers back is simple and inexpensive.
“Instead of cutting at the start of summer or not mowing the verge at all, it needs to be cut once a year between mid-July and September, with the cuttings then removed. This will give the flowers the opportunity to spread their seeds.
“By encouraging wildflowers such as birds foot trefoil, scabious, betony and lady’s bedstraw, we will bring back the colour to our verges and also attract butterflies like common blues, small skippers, marbled whites as well as many species of moths and beetles. It’s a win-win situation for nature and for motorists.
“It has been calculated that, if verges were looked after properly, there could be 418 billion flowers growing on them across the country.”
Farmers and local parish councils can contact Chris for advice on managing verges by calling him on 01484 868426 or emailing Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.