Re-wilding Aldbourne’s Verges

If you live or travel through Aldbourne you may have noticed some changes to the road verges over the past couple of years. In 2021, following a request from Carbon Neutral Aldbourne, the Parish Council agreed to a change in the management of some of the village verges.

Why do we need to make changes to our verges?

Our planet’s insects are in crisis and we need to do something about it. Human impact on habitats, rising pollution levels and climate change are all contributing to a worrying long-term decline in insects. These insects are a vital part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem providing many essential services – they pollinate crops, they provide food for other animals and they act as decomposers.

So what is happening on the verges?

From year one the verges looked beautiful and the wildflowers didn’t disappoint. Each verge was different and included some or all of the following: Orange Hawkbit, Birds-foot Trefoil, Yarrow, Knapweeds, Cowslips, Vetches and the exiting arrival of a Pyramidal Orchid or 2!

Along with the appearance of wildflowers there was a noticeable increase in insects including bees, butterflies, beetles and Elephant Hawk Moths.

Are the verges monitored?

Carbon Neutral Aldbourne keeps a close eye on the unmown verges and monitors the appearance of wildflowers and insects. They also keep an eye out for any problems. In 2021 one of the verges at the end of a road was left without a mown strip at the edge. This caused issue for cars pulling out of the junction and was rectified very quickly.

Were any of the areas planted up with wildflowers or seeded?

Last year’s show of wildflowers proved that many plants and seeds are already present within the grass and giving them a break from mowing allowed them to flourish. This means that the verges look better for longer, contain more native species and are much-less labour intensive to manage.

In other towns and villages you may have seen areas which have been stripped and re-seeded with wildflowers. This is an excellent way to attract pollinators and if done well can look beautiful. However, the wildflower mixes often contain non-native species and may only attract certain pollinators. They also require a lot of work initially and each area must be left alone while the seeds are germinating and establishing. Most of the verges in Aldbourne are used regularly and they are very visible so bare patches that cannot be walked across would not be ideal.

Beautiful wildflower seed mixes are often short-lived too meaning that the verges would only be at their best for a few weeks a year.

 

Have there been any complaints?

Although most people were very happy with the verges last year there were some complaints regarding the state of the unmown areas towards the end of the season. As the grass growth progresses it is liable to flop in wetter weather and the growth can start to look unkempt when the grasses die back and turn brown.

Getting the right balance is tricky. We have a tendency to prefer ‘neat’ spaces but it is essential that we allow spaces to grow and provide vital food and habitat for wildlife. After carefully researching the best times to mow these areas, Carbon Neutral Aldbourne concluded that a late September cut would provide the food and habitat the insects need whilst also ensuring that (by removing the cuttings) soil fertility is kept low. Cutting at this time should also mean that the verges continue to look beautiful and well cared for up to the time of the final cut. Leaving the less visible verges unmown throughout the winter will provide much-needed overwintering spaces.

What is biodiversity and why does it matter?

Bio-diversity is the variety of life on earth in all its forms from bacteria to trees or flowers to dogs and cats. Its rather like a piece of music which only sounds right if there are no missing notes. It matters because each part is dependant on the next one. Here are just two examples: we need bees to fertilise our crops and plants to produce oxygen.

If you have a garden – no matter how small – then our wildlife needs you!

Rewilding our verges is not enough – we need everyone to dedicate as much space as they can to wildlife. This means less hard-landscaping, no fertilisers/pesticides and less frequent mowing.

Aldbourne’s Patchwork Nature Reserve

Carbon Neutral Aldbourne has set up a patchwork nature reserve made up of patches of gardens and road verges. These are spaces that are dedicated to wildlife so this could mean unmown grass, pollinator-friendly planting, ponds or bee and bug hotels. Patches range from 1m2 to over 1000m2 – all are beautiful, diverse and great for wildlife. The target set for 2021 was to create a football pitch-sized (approx 7000M2) nature reserve. The target was reached and a new target for another football 7000M2  was set for 2022. 

For more information and photos of the Aldbourne Nature Reserve visit the Carbon Neutral Aldbourne website:

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