Will those who are busy setting up our new Unitary Authorities squeeze in a moment to think about wildflower verges? The new Highways Departments have a unique opportunity to plant environmental benefits and conservation at the root of their work from the start.
At Rose of the Shires we promote all that is good in and about our county, and there is much that gives Northamptonshire people cause for celebration and pride. But there is always room for improvement - one example is the potential of our streets and highways to create a brighter and healthier environment.
A number of Local Authorities have adopted schemes to encourage wildflowers to flourish at the roadside. They provide more relaxing and inspiring surroundings for road users. Flower-rich verges support bees, so essential to human survival. They sustain all sorts of other insects and the birds and small mammals that rely on them for food. Replacing grass areas with wildflowers can save maintenance costs.
Northamptonshire County Council has a Biodiversity Action Plan for the period 2015-2020. It appears to focus on identifying and protecting sites of special importance but does not mention establishing new wildflower verges. The document (download now) states:
Protected Wildflower Verges: are roadside verges rich in wildlife. The Wildlife Trust and Northamptonshire County Council run a system to designate certain verges and protect and manage them to retain their wildflower interest as Protected Wildflower Verges (PWV). At the time of writing, there are 32 PWV in Northamptonshire, stretching 26km and covering over 17 hectares.
The Wildlife Trust's own Blog has an article with more about this. Read now »
© Glyn Baker [cc-by-sa/2.0]
In the Facebook Groups for Great Doddington and Wellingborough, members have been discussing a link to a story from the British Beekeepers Association about Rotherham Council sowing wildflowers on 8 miles of verges. Photos »
Another leader in developing and managing wildflower verges is Durham County Council. Take a look at their YouTube Video »
There is an important difference between these two examples. It seems that most of Rotherham's planting is in an urban setting where it may be appropriate to use the very colourful wildlife flower mixes that we plant in our gardens. In open country, however, non-native species and those not found naturally growing in the area can upset the ecological balance with potentially damaging results. County Durham's selection is made with care. It is really important that schemes for wildflower verges are properly planned and maintained; people scattering shop-bought wildflower mixes in the countryside is a bad idea !
Along the roads and in all sorts of other areas, people in our villages could arrange with their Parish Council to promote wildflower conservation. Is this an opportunity for the Wildlife Trusts to build on their How to grow a wild patch advice to develop a resource of basic recommendations and support which many communities could share?
Share your thoughts about Wildflowers in Northamptonshire in our own Rose of the Shires Facebook Group »
The Plantlife Website is dedicated to raising the profile, celebrating the beauty, and protecting the future of wild flowers , plants and fungi. They are running a campaign to encourage councils to manage road verges to benefit wild flowers and other nature. Find out more »
Readers of this blog might like to send Plantlife's Open Letter to Northamptonshire County Council to encourage adoption of Plantlife's guidelines here. Doubtless, many of the same people who manage the county's highways now will be working for the new Unitary Authorities and can carry forward this message and ambition to future fulfillment. Sign and send now »
Bee Orchids A45 Wellingborough
Social Media OG image
Near Upton, Leicestershire
© Mat Fascione [cc-by-sa/2.0]