Restoring Shropshire’s Verges Project
Shropshire’s road side verges have huge wildlife potential.
They could be wonderful linear meadows, providing nectar for pollinators and food and shelter for small mammals, birds and other invertebrates. Sadly, many of them are not managed for wildlife in this way. They are regularly cut, with the cuttings left in situ to rot down, this raises the fertility which in turn encourages rank vegetation such as nettles, brambles and hogweed to develop crowding out wild flowers.
South Shropshire has some of the best wildflower verges but sadly these are The remaining verges that do still have a diversity of flowering plants are often cut far too early, removing the flowers and preventing them setting seed.
Restoring Shropshire’s Verges Project (RSVP) has been in progress for several years now. Individuals have been busy: campaigning for Shropshire Council to change their verge management policy, taking on the management of various ‘demonstration verges’ in south Shropshire, giving talks to local groups on the importance of verges, and raising awareness of local people.
Despite the restrictions posed by Covid, 2020 has seen momentum building around Shropshire’s verges and a formalisation of RSVP’s work. Through the support of the National Trust’s Stepping Stones project, over £15,000 has been made available to support RSVP. Much of this was used to purchase a two wheeled tractor that can be used by volunteers to cut-and-collect verges (after flowering!), with the rest going towards training, surveys, ‘Please do not mow’ signs and purchasing and sowing yellow rattle seed. Around 8770m2 of verges are now managed as wildflower meadow by the group.
Partnership working Liaison with Shropshire Council and the highways department continues. Earlier this year the Council agreed to leave over 10km of verge in south Shropshire uncut until July/August, a huge step forward in policy.
RSVP are also planning a pilot project, to begin in 2021: an independent economic assessment of cut-and-collecting 16km of verge in the Stepping Stones project area and transporting it to a local anaerobic digester and composter.
The long term intention is to persuade Shropshire Council to implement a management contract that reflects the restoration of Shropshire’s verges combined with additional beneficial outputs that are beginning to emerge.
The Council have given this pilot their backing.
RSVP has now formed a committee and written a constitution, a vital step which will allow the group to get its own insurance, form a bank account and be eligible to bid for wider funding.
Published by Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership on
AONB Partnership News, September 2021
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