Verges: FAQS

Scroll down to read some of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) about road verges and their management – and our answers.

To contact RSVP, please email

Why are road verges important?

We have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows over the last 100 years.  This has had a devastating impact on wildlife – there are now more priority species for conservation associated with meadows than with any other habitat.  Road verges have huge potential to provide important areas of wildflower meadows and, crucially, to act as corridors which link together remaining fragments of meadow and other habitats.  They can also help to store carbon and intercept flood water.

What’s wrong with how the verges are currently managed?

Unfortunately, many verges are currently cut too early in the year, sometimes several times, with the cuttings left to rot down.  This type of management removes food sources for pollinators and destroys most finer grasses and wildflowers, leaving the verges to become dominated by ‘rank’ vegetation such as coarse grass, hogweed and nettles.

How would RSVP like to see verges managed?

RSVP would like the verges to be cut once a year in later summer, which would allow the flowers to remain on the verges throughout the flowering season, and set seed to they return next year.  Importantly, once cut these cuttings need to be lifted and removed from the verges to prevent them rotting down, smothering the wildflowers and increasing the nutrient content of the soil.  Some verges will also need to be seeded with yellow rattle and appropriate wildflowers.

What are the benefits of creating wildflower meadows on our verges?

Managing verges as mini-hay meadows would store carbon, replenish the seed bank, restore floral diversity, save the Council money, create habitat and provide nectar and pollen.  They also look beautiful and can help connect people with nature whilst they use the roads.

Won’t the verges start to look messy and untidy?

It is true that verges managed for wildlife may look different to the style of verge we might be used to seeing.  However, managing verges as wildflower meadows will make them much more valuable to wildlife and will also store more carbon.  There will be more flowers in the verges in the spring and summer, which look beautiful as well as providing valuable nectar and pollen for insects.  We need to remember that nature loves ‘messy’, and a thriving, wildlife-rich habitat full of life has a much richer beauty than a ‘tidy’, short-mown lawn which has no value to wildlife.

Will this make visibility for road users more difficult and lead to safety issues?

Public safety is the primary concern and any verges which the Council list as needing to be cut short for visibility reasons will still be cut as normal.

All ‘safety cuts’ on wide verges, where the part of the verge that borders the road is cut short, will still be carried out as normal.

How long does it take for a typical grassy area to become a flower-rich meadow?

The experiences from other projects have shown that it will take on average 2 to 3 years, however, this will depend on how nutrient-rich the site is to begin with.

Other factors such as soil type, exposure, soil compaction and previous management will all play a part.

How often will the verges be cut, and when?

We want to allow grasses and flowers in the verge to grow, flower and set seed. A rule of thumb would be to cut and lift from August onwards. However this is weather dependent so you may notice that verges being managed as wildflower meadows are cut slightly earlier or later than this.

Some verges may also require a cut in early spring as well, until the dominance of coarse grasses is reduced.

What about paths and activity spaces?

Access paths and rights of way, along with amenity spaces such as playing fields, will still be cut regularly as before.

What will the verge look like?

When people think about a wildflower meadow they tend to think about a non-native high colour amenity planting display. This does provide a certain level of benefit to our pollinators but is a high cost and high maintenance option.

We hope to recreate a more natural wildflower meadow habitat. There will be a reduction in dense, coarse grasses and an increase in finer native grasses and wildflowers which will improve year on year as the soil fertility reduces with every cut and lift.

The flowers that will grow here will be colourful and attractive as well as being beneficial to wildlife, although the display will be more subtle than in non-native high colour amenity plantings.

Will the verges be sprayed or fertilised?

Our native wildflowers and grasses thrive in nutrient poor soils, therefore no fertilizer or compost should be applied. We advocate hand pulling of weedy species that are dominant such as docks. However if this is not practicable, targeted spot spraying may be required.

Will the verge attract rats if becomes a wildflower meadow?

An actively managed grassland is less likely to attract any additional rodents, than a verge full of overgrown, coarse grasses, nettles, brambles and litter.

How will ragwort (which is a noxious weed) be controlled?

Ragwort can be a beneficial plant to our pollinators, but if it is becoming dominant or is causing a potential hazard for any nearby livestock it can be hand-pulled or spot sprayed. If the grass is being cut for fodder it is essential to remove all ragwort before cutting.

Will managing the verges as meadows mean they become full of docks, thistles and nettles?

Quite the reverse!  The current management regime, where verges are cut several times a year and the cuttings are left to rot down, is very likely to result in thistles, docks and nettles as they thrive in areas of high nutrients.

But a change to an annual cutting and lifting regime as part of a new meadow management policy will prevent these species from becoming dominant.

What wildlife will the verges support?

Verges are basically linear meadows.  Meadows and species-rich grasslands support a huge diversity and abundance of fine native grasses, wildflowers and fungi. This rich habitat supports a host of bees, flies, beetles, spiders, moths, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, bats and birds.

In the UK and Ireland, more priority species (for conservation attention) are associated with wildflower-rich grasslands than with any other habitat type. See Saving Our Magnificent Meadows for more information on the importance of meadows:

Can I plant daffodils and other bulbs on the verge?

We discourage the planting of bulbs on verges for the following reasons:

  • Generally the commercial available bulbs commonly planted in parks and gardens are non-native, horticultural varieties and have very little value to wildlife.
  • They also prevent any spring cut-and-collect being carried out on verges, which can be a useful management tool in the early stages of restoration. 

If spring colour is wanted, we recommend planting spring flowering species like cowslips and primroses.  The one exception to bulb planting may be snake’s head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) a native meadow species.  As with all planting, whether seeds, bulbs or plugs, please ensure the species are native to the UK and are naturally found in the Shropshire area.  Ensure that the plants, seeds or bulbs have been grown as locally as possible and not imported from abroad.  This is vital to ensure we don’t import plant diseases or non-native genetic stock, and to reduce the carbon footprint of this work.

Why does it matter?

We are in the middle of a biodiversity and climate crisis which threatens not only other species, but the health and wellbeing of future generations of people.

This may seem unrelated from some small patches of verge in Shropshire, but every single patch of wildlife-friendly habitat, from a huge nature reserve to a window box, can play an important role in helping slow and stop this crisis.  If all our road verges because species rich grassland they would also be able to store much more carbon.


Enterprise House, Station Street, Bishops Castle, SY9 5AQ

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01743 891492 (Dr Richard Keymer)