Five-spot Burnet moth on Orchid beside A354 Blandford bypass

On the verge of something big

UK wildlife charities have teamed up with England’s government advisor on natural environment to persuade local councils and landowners to help save our pollinators.

At the first event of its kind, local authorities and other organisations will be asked to change the way they manage road verges, roundabouts and other valuable grassland habitats to benefit wildlife.

More wildflowers and less mowing will feature in the topics discussed at the Symposium on Friday 13th September at the Earth Trust in Oxfordshire.

The event has been organised by The Wildlife Trusts, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England and the 80 places have already sold out, with a waiting list, highlighting the popularity of the topic.

At least 21 local authorities from across England and Wales are attending, as well as organisations like South East Water, Highways England, Transport for London, University researchers and landowners like the National Trust.

Dr Phil Sterling from Butterfly Conservation said:

“Butterflies, bees and moths can all benefit from simple changes to the way our road verges and roundabouts are managed, but we have proof that local authorities and landowners can also save themselves money by adopting these new approaches, so it’s a win-win for all involved.

“A number of councils are already planting more wildflowers, which is fantastic and the public have been very supportive of this. In Dorset I worked with the County Council to plant wildflowers next to a major new road development near Weymouth. Previously only a couple of butterflies were recorded there, but ten years on, we can now find at least 30 different butterfly species beside this busy main road.”

Five-spot Burnet moth on Orchid beside A354 Blandford bypass

Road verges provide vital habitat for pollinators, like moths, butterflies and bees

Dr Nicola Rivers from Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust said:

“This is the perfect opportunity to bring different sectors together to learn from each other and discuss how we can manage road verges to support biodiversity. The Wildlife Trusts will be amongst those showcasing examples of how working together has led to an increase of wildflowers in urban locations.”

One of the keynote speakers on the day is Kate Petty, Road Verge Campaign Manager at Plantlife. Kate said: 

“Plantlife is delighted to be part of this important symposium.  We will be previewing the forthcoming best practice management guidance that we have been working on with many of the organisations who will be there on the day.  It is a heartening to see that, increasingly, verges are recognised as the wildlife havens they are, rather than inconsequential ‘edgelands’ that flash by in the car wing mirror as we speed ahead with our busy lives. Given that we have lost a staggering 97% of wildflower meadows in less than a century it is almost impossible to exaggerate how crucial grassy road verge are to wild flowers and the wealth of wildlife they underpin: over 700 species of wildflowers grow on verges, nearly 45% of our total flora, including 29 of 52 species of native orchid. We are confident the guidance offers practical help to all highway managers to respond to growing desire from local communities to be looking after our verges in a more sympathetic way.”

Other speakers on the day include representatives from various local authorities, Highways England, Natural England and conservation organisations.

Road verge - before and after management changes

A road verge before and after management changes

Dr Richard Jefferson, a grassland specialist from Natural England, said:

“Natural England are really pleased to be supporting this symposium as road verges are often the last vestiges of wildflower-rich grasslands in many areas and are a very important habitat for biodiversity conservation. They are a fundamental resource for maintaining and re-building biodiversity in urban and rural areas.

“In particular, they will form part of a Nature Recovery Network, a major commitment in the Government’s 25 year environment plan that will improve, expand and connect wildlife-rich habitats.”

Details on the event can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org/RoadvergeSymposium

Coming Soon: Video of the Symposium and all the talks from the day..

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