The local road network runs the length and breadth of the Stour area and most roads
have verges. Road verges, if managed sympathetically, can create a network wide corridor
of wildflower rich grassland.
In a predominantly arable landscape, where grassland habitat has become scarce, isolated
and fragmented, these corridors are essential to allow many notable wild flowers
to colonise and increase there range throughout the whole area, by creating connectivity
between surviving grassland habitat.
Verges have become important as habitat, because they have little interference, they
have no artificial fertilizers, pesticide or herbicide added. They rarely get soil
disturbance and contain a good seed bank of wildflowers, including some of our more
scarce plants including orchids. Because well managed verge habitat is rich in wildflowers,
it attracts and supports many other insects and animals some of which are also scarce.
Again, the verges can provide corridors for these to increase their numbers and range
throughout the network. To achieve this, the verges that are most biologically important
must be identified and brought under proper management. This could include clearing
scrub and a more involved cutting regime than the verge cuts provided by Local Authorities.
It would also include the removal of any cut material from the verge. Once this has
been achieved, these managed areas can be extended to create the connectivity.
Often, when new roads are constructed, the constructions include extensive landscaping
of the verges and road cuttings by the spreading of topsoil and aesthetic plantings
of trees and shrubs. This gardening of the countryside, doesn’t really take into
account the local flora and fauna, or the expensive future management of the area.
Adding rich topsoil, encourages lush thick vegetation which then needs regular cutting.
On the other hand, if the subsoil or clay had been left to mother nature to colonize,
the growth would be sparse, short, rich in wildflowers and take less costly management!
A prime example of this can be seen on the Ettington road cutting below.