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Victory for Cumbria's verging territory - a lesson for Craven?

[Monday 03 July 2006]

AS Craven District Council comes under fire for mowing roadside verges and destroying the rich wildflower mix within them a local authority to the north is being praised after another 100 species of wildflowers were found in Cumbria's verges in recent surveys.

verge survey
Cumbria verge survey - a lesson for
Photo: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Carefully managed cutting schedules, including in areas such as Eden and South Lakeland in the Northern Dales, have contributed to the conservation of the varied species in the verges since the last survey was carried out in 1994.

A travelling display and a new leaflet to highlight the wildlife importance of our verges has also helped by encouraging people not to drive or park on verges and not to plant bulbs on verges near their homes.

80 Cumbria Wildlife Trust volunteers have been carrying out the survey and compiling the results on behalf of Cumbria County Council over the last four years.

596 wildflower species have been found altogether and 400km of verges have been assessed so far. 15,000 individual species records have been logged and this is set to increase with the new survey season now underway.

Judith Wallen, Cumbria Wildlife Trust Volunteer, says: "I have been collating all the information that has been coming in from the verge surveyors and it has certainly been a busy year so far. It has been hard work but making sure these special verges are protected for the wildflowers, and the bees and butterflies that live in them, is very satisfying."

Many roadside verges have been designated 'special' by the County Council and both these and the regular verges in Cumbria are strongholds for old hay meadow species of flowers that have been lost from our fields.

The timing of this cut is planned to help protect the wildflowers on the verge. Some verges are cut early in the year, some in July, August or September. This will allow the flowers to flower and set seed, whilst also maintaining safety

Judy Palmer - County Ecologist

In stark contrast to Craven District Council which year on year has ignored pleas from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Cumbria County Council is working in partnership with the Trust to see that these verges are cut at the right time of year to ensure the rare flowers are not lost forever.

Judy Palmer, County Ecologist, said: "Every verge managed by Cumbria County Council is maintained under a cutting programme.

"The timing of this cut is planned to help protect the wildflowers on the verge. Some verges are cut early in the year, some in July, August or September. This will allow the flowers to flower and set seed, whilst also maintaining safety."

It's not all good news however. 18 species previously found have disappeared from some verges and 56 species were found to occur on fewer verges.

Wildlife Trust top tips on what we all can do to protect out verges

  • Avoid driving on verges
  • Take an interest in your local verges and talk to others about what you see
  • If you see someone damaging a verge near you and feel confident in approaching them, then have a word with them
  • If you don't know who is damaging a verge, or don't want to approach them, contact Cumbria Wildlife Trust
  • If you have a verge by your property, don't turn into a lawn but enjoy the wildflowers instead. The verge should be cut later in the year after the flowers have seeded
  • Don't plant bulbs or other cultivated plants on roadside verges, save them for your garden

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