• Ottery’s wildflower verge pilot set for extension across the county

    20th June 2015 | News | Claire
  • Led by the North Devon Biosphere Service in Barnstaple, Devon County Council officers are poised to submit a bid for around £70,000 to a national charity.

    The bid is an extension of my wildflower verge pilot in Ottery Rural and is set to help local communities create and maintain their own wildflower highways verges – and to monitor their progress.

    In 2013, I teamed up with Devon Wildlife Trust and Devon County Council officers to establish a test pilot to turn three highways verges at Ottery St Mary, Tipton St John and West Hill, into attractive wildflower displays, which would help boost declining insect numbers.

    I initially talked with Devon Wildlife Trust officers after being horrified by the State of Nature report, published in May 2013 which showed dramatic declines in many insect and bird populations, largely to climate change and a widespread loss of habitat.

    Just three per cent of our wildflower meadows remain and I decided that this was what must be focused on. With the budget cuts to highways, which meant that many verges would now remain uncut or cut less frequently, it also seemed like a win-win situation.

    Last week, environmental campaign group, Plantlife urged councils to adopt more wildlife friendly verge cutting policies.

    In summer 2013, I drew up guidance with the help of highways officers. And Devon Wildlife Trust advised on suitable seeds, management and preparation.

    The West Hill verge was the most successful verge of the three and is pictured.  West Hill Residents Association have now kindly taken on its maintenance and will sow more seeds this autumn.

    The two verges at Tipton St John and Ottery were discontinued as they were not as successful as we hoped they would be.

    At January’s Devon County Council budget scrutiny meeting, I decided that I must pursue new opportunities for communities to create wildflower verges as the new highways policy, due to significant budget cuts, restricted the cutting of verges to junctions and some bends.  I knew that most verges in Devon would look unsightly as soon as the warm weather arrived and complaints would come in!

    So I talked with officers on how the project may be extended to communities across the county.

    The £70,000 of funding applied would be used a range of items, including:
    * Training – flora identification and data recording
    * Highways training – road safety
    * Production of best practice guides and case studies
    * Data recording and processing
    * Signage for verges
    * Verge management equipment

    Officers will submit the bid shortly. 

    If successful, the wildflower verge programme will be available in North, South and Eastern Devon.

    We are not aware of any other such project in the country.

    Pictured:  West Hill’s wildflower verge.