Hedgerow Havens project case study: Weedon wildflower verges
Maybe you’ve heard the buzz around wildflower road verges? With some small changes to management, verges can become havens for wildlife supporting hundreds of flowering plants along with insects, birds and mammals. The two following case studies show how small changes made to the management of verges can mean big benefits for wildlife.
Through the Hedgerow Havens project, we have worked with councils, local wildlife groups and members of the public in the villages of Whitchurch and Weedon to begin the establishment of wildflower road verges.
BBOWT first approached the parish of Weedon in autumn 2018. With responsibility for verge cutting now devolved to parish councils it quickly became apparent that the village, which has a number of large strips of grassland adjoining its roads, would be an ideal candidate for creation of wildflower-rich road verges. Weedon Parish Council and BBOWT therefore set about planning for the creation of approximately 500m of wildflower road verge within the village.
The first priority was finding a verge cutting contractor able to deal with cutting and removing longer grass. The council were able to successfully identify a suitable contractor by early summer 2019 and a hay cut was then carried out in July of the same year followed by another in October. The early hay cuts removed nutrients from the site and provided a nice, shortly-mown verge ready to have wildflower seeds sown into it.
After some additional ground preparation to open up more bare ground for seeding by the Hedgerow Havens Project Officer, a large group of volunteers descended on the road verges to spread seed and enthusiastically stomp it into the ground. We crossed our fingers that the seed would germinate and not be eaten by hungry pigeons that were seen patrolling the verges in the following weeks.
Coming into spring 2020, there was still a lot of bare ground and save for a few plants taking off, we feared that the majority of seeds had not germinated. However as the coronavirus lockdown took off so too did the wildflowers, with plants growing rapidly through April before beginning to bloom in May. Again, as with the verge in Whitchurch, the plants that dominated in this first year have been cornflower, corncockle, chamomile, poppy and corn marigold.
As with Whitchurch, the area is soon to be haycut and we can’t wait to see which meadow species pop up next year!