United Kingdom

Councils urged to 'cut back on mowing' roadside verges to protect wildflowers

Cutting back on mowing roadside grass patches will help wildflowers like oxeye daisies and harebells have 'their best summer in years'.

The UK has more than 310,000 miles of rural road verges which have become a refuge for wildflowers squeezed out of the countryside, says charity Plantlife.

The plant conservation group says these flowers often fall victim to mowing which doesn't give them a chance to bloom and set their seeds.

The charity has called on councils to reduce the amount they mow these roadside areas as it will boost not just wildflowers but insects, birds and mammals.

The UK has more than 310,000 miles of rural road verges which have become a refuge for wildflowers squeezed out of the countryside, says charity Plantlife

The shift away from typically mowing the verges of rural roads, A-roads and motorways four times a year could also save large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from the tractor mowers, Plantlife argues.  

With coronavirus putting pressure on council services and causing staff shortages, non-essential activities such as spring mowing could fall by the wayside.

The charity recommends reducing mowing from four times a year to just twice a year - using the slogan 'twice is nice' in their campaign.

Cutting verges twice in late summer and autumn or once in autumn and once in early spring, could save 22,754 tonnes of carbon dioxide, it says.

Plantlife acknowledges the need for mowing in areas where it is needed for safety reasons, such as at junctions.

The charity also says a three foot mown strip immediately alongside the carriageway can help lower-growing plants. 

Often the reason councils mow so much is because they believe their residents want the countryside to look neat and tidy, an attitude that is beginning to change.

Local authorities which have taken the decision to mow less and later are now getting more feedback from residents welcoming roadside blooms than complaints about messiness, the charity's Dr Trevor Dines said.

While councils were likely to carry on cutting the grass around junctions for safety reasons, this year with the pandemic, 'on the rest of the verges this is an opportunity to see a little bit of nature return', he said.

The charity has called on councils to reduce the amount they mow these roadside areas as it will boost not just wildflowers but insects, birds and mammals

The shift away from typically mowing the verges of rural roads, A-roads and motorways four times a year could also save large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from the tractor mowers, Plantlife argues

'An unintended but understandable consequence of lockdown may be reduced mowing that has the potential to benefit wild plants and the bees, butterflies, birds, bats and bugs that depend on them for survival.'

Plantlife is highlighting 10 summer flowering plants that are increasingly rare and seeking refuge in roadside verges through the countryside.

They are oxeye daisy, yellow rattle, wild carrot, meadow crane's-bill, greater knapweed, white campion, burnet-saxifrage, betony, harebell and field scabious.

The plants could see their best summer in years with fewer cuts, Plantlife suggests.

Kate Petty, road verge campaign manager, Plantlife, said: 'Verges are the last remaining habitats for some incredibly rare flowers like wood calamint.

'We must redouble our efforts to save and protect these under-appreciated, yet abundant, strips.'

Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife's Botanical Specialist, said in the incredibly challenging times were facing - wild flowers are an 'uplifting sight' contributing to our wellbeing.

'For too long, scalping verges in the pursuit of neatness has been flattening wild plant communities: When verges are cut early in spring – sometimes as early as April – most flowers just don't stand a chance,' he said. 

'Summer has been disappearing from verges as colourful flowers cannot set seed before the mowers strike.' 

I wandered lonely as a tulip grower...  

By Jaya Narain for The Daily Mail 

It's a joyous burst of colour amid all the doom and gloom. 

With splashes of red and purple in a sea of white, this dazzling display of tulips and narcissus would be enjoyed by 10,000 visitors this spring - were it not for coronavirus restrictions forcing the garden to shut. 

But instead of letting it all go to waste, the gardeners at Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, have moved the annual Tulip Festival online, so fans can enjoy the beautiful blast of spring colour from the safety and comfort of their armchairs. 

Martin Duncan, Head Gardener at Arundel Castle has the job of looking after the 80,000 tulips that have bloomed normally ready for the start of the Annual Tulip Festival

Head gardener Martin Duncan and his team of seven have had to adapt to social distancing rules to manage the castle's 40-acre gardens and display of 80,000 tulips this year. Instead of working in pairs, they now work alone and are allotted a portion of land to tend each day. 

Mr Duncan, who has worked at the castle for 11 years, said: 'We couldn't let the long winter months of bulb planting go to waste, so we're delighted to be able to show off the fruits of our labour and let everyone see the displays online.' 

Mr Duncan said the virtual festival will feature photos of the 180 different varieties of tulip and drone footage of the display. 

Search tulipfestival.co.uk to enjoy. 

The Festival has been cancelled this year due to lockdown restrictions amid the pandemic 

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