Born to Re-wild: The Rise of Urban Wildflower Verges

Date 01.03.2024
Category Advice
Author Richard George

Roadside verges are a natural by-product of our modern infrastructure, evolving from the ancient roads of Britain, clinging to the expansive road network we see today. Combined, these grass verges cover an area twice the size of London. Traditionally, they have been managed through time and labour-intensive schedules, which, while maintaining neatness, often detract from their potential ecological benefits.

Since WW2, we've seen a dramatic loss of biodiversity, with an estimated 97% of our wildflower meadows vanishing, alongside around 20% of our roadside plants. This decline, coupled with the expected 60% increase in the global road network by 2050, underscores the urgent need for a re-evaluation of how we manage these spaces. Properly managed, roadside verges can support over 700 native wildflower species, fostering significant biodiversity that reduces carbon dioxide, improves air quality, supports wildlife, and benefits the overall health and wellbeing of the community.

Balancing Safety and Sustainability in Urban Greenspaces

A primary concern in the management of urban greenspaces is safety, ensuring clear sightlines for both road users and pedestrians. Traditional cut-and-leave maintenance programmes, while keeping verges tidy, inadvertently accelerate grass growth, necessitating more frequent maintenance. However, a growing interest in enhancing our green infrastructure has led to innovative management approaches. Rewilding, or the intentional planting of wildflowers and reduction of maintenance interventions, not only enhances the resilience and aesthetics of these areas but also offers potential cost savings for local authorities.

In their pursuit to rewild, local authorities are overcoming new challenges: identifying appropriate management strategies that align with the needs of the local area, and introducing new maintenance schedules to incorporate the change. To support these initiatives, many local authorities are turning to management software for data-driven decision-making, ensuring the effective implementation of rewilding programmes and monitoring their impact on public infrastructure and health.

A Case Study in Success: Dorset Council's Rewilding Effort

The popularity of rewilding has surged since the difficulties experienced in the 2014 growing season. Dorset Council, for instance, has achieved remarkable success through its comprehensive management programme, witnessing not only a revival of critically endangered species and increased resilience to climate change effects but also a significant reduction in management costs, saving £350,000 in the first 5 years. We’re taking this success story, and support local authorities in achieving the same, driving a nationwide effort to develop and manage urban greenspaces in a manner that benefits both local communities and the environment.

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