Hedgerow Havens project case study: Whitchurch 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.
The area selected in Whitchurch is a small 400m2 area set back from the main road. Up until 2019 the area had been allowed to grow wild, becoming dominated by brambles and invasive weeds from the surrounding gardens. The local parish council took steps to clear the area back prior to reaching an agreement with BBOWT to manage the area for the benefit of wildlife over the next 25 years.
Over the spring and summer of 2019, steps were taken to remove the invasive garden plants which had invaded the site. After several visits by the Hedgerow Havens Project Officer, BBOWT trainees and local volunteers, the site was ready for seeding. This was carried out in July by volunteers from the Whitchurch Wildlife & Environment Group, Whitchurch parish, North Marston Wildlife & Environment Group and BBOWT.
The specially selected meadow seed mix includes species such as birds foot trefoil, ox-eye daisy and tufted vetch and was sown along with a mix of cornfield annuals such as poppies, corncockle, chamomile and cornflower. These provide shelter and important nectar sources whilst the longer lived meadow species develop below.
By the autumn of 2019, the seeds had germinated and turned the area a pleasant light green, which remained the case throughout the winter months. In the early spring of 2020 the plants started to take off and grow taller before the first flowers - the distinctive blue florets of the cornflower - emerged in April, followed by the pink of corncockle, the white of chamomile and the red of poppies in May before finally the yellow of corn marigold arrived in June to kickstart the summer.
In July- August of 2020 the first hay cut will be carried out by members of the Whitchurch Wildlife & Environment Group and the verge will continue to be managed with a yearly cut and remove going forward. We’re all looking forward to seeing what comes up next year!