Catastrophic news for insect life has inspired communities and councils around the UK to take action, generating splashes of summer colour which hope to have a lasting impact.
Below, readers share some of their local successes, including thoughts about how leaving nature to run its course by standing back rather than taking action can help – and explain how they have been getting involved in community projects big and small.
“Hengrove Way (pictured, above) is a 1960s dual carriageway in the south of Bristol. The wide central verge was originally reserved for a tram system but was planted a few years ago with an avenue of purple beech trees. The meadow here is sown annually by the Bristol city council parks. Budgets are tight and so they try and make a little spread a long way – in this case there are over 300 metres of flowers: as a resident they give me much enjoyment.” Richard, Bristol
“Three neighbouring families with five children grouped together to care for three unloved grass verges adjacent to our homes in Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire. We planted yellow rattle to compete with the grass annuals to provide colour in year one, and perennials from year two onwards. We lovingly named our patch Flack Wild Heath.
“I was mowing the verges myself each week anyway, and over a beer with our neighbours, we decided we should give it a go. We’ve had lots of interest and look forward to new friends in the village extending the Heath from next year. More of us should do the same; it’s easy to sit back and wait for the council or someone else. Actually though, there’s way more pleasure in seeing our own patch develop. Very rewarding. In fact, it’s ace arriving home each day to see what’s popped up.” Marcus Firmin, Buckinghamshire
“I planted this wildflower bank earlier this year on the edge of a path which overlooks a meadow outside my home. The idea is to develop areas that give colour to the meadow as well as attracting different types of wildlife, while trying just to manage small areas and keeping things as natural as possible.” David Warr, Jersey
“Totnes Gardens is a small Royal Horticultural Society affiliated voluntary group, working around the town. We’ve been sowing wildflowers everywhere this year, and are hoping to rewild and sow the town cemetery next year, and plant more trees. We’re also in future talks with the district council concerning all sorts of what seems to be overzealous cutting taking place. The photo shows our largest area, opposite the hospital, but you can see [from the sign in the photo] some folk just think it’s for them to pick.
“It seems that council cuts have resulted in random scalping of verges and open spaces, with what appears to be no real plan, but they seem happy when community groups such as ours, with some skill, take on their sites. We’re sure we can save them money, improve the environment, spread beauty and pollen – there are so many advantages there seems no reason not to!” Diana Cusack, Totnes
“Taken this week whilst on my way into the town centre. One of many small urban spaces that have been planted by the local council.” James, Newport
“As a gardener, I know the work involved in preparing and maintaining verges. As long as vehicle sight lines are maintained where necessary, I feel this verge on the Kegworth bypass is a superb example of how the natural environment is so much more attractive than the sterile, known alternative. I am a gardener at a nearby university where the campus has initiated a biodiversity scheme to encourage wildlife within its grounds. A number of areas are being left unmown; poorer ground is being seeded with suitable wildflower mixes. The study will try to identify any change in the number of plants animals and insects within campus.” Dave Bicker, Loughborough
“This verge on both sides of a wide dual carriageway and on the central reservation was planted by nature. Each year, Surrey county council mows it all flat when the flowers are in bloom, citing safety, although the extent is clearly excessive by common sense standards. This deprives stressed motorists of an uplifting and soothing experience on their journey, as well as disrupting or terminating the lives of countless amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. Planting verges is good: but don’t forget nature did it first, and all we have to do is respect and wonder.” Jenny Desoutter, Dorking
“These are not planted – they’re wild native plants! I monitor two of our local verges for the Yorkshire Dales national park’s Orton Special Verges project: we don’t plant verges and do not think we need to do it.
“We need to educate people about what we already have as our native flora. It’s better to conserve the flora that will naturally grow in meadows and verges, for example by not mowing too soon (apart from a safety strip if needed for visibility). Late mowing, to let grassland plants set seed, and taking off the mowings to keep fertility low will allow native plants to regenerate as well as being cheaper for the councils than year round mowing or trying to seed verges with plants that want arable conditions.” Sue Millard, Cumbria
“Burleys, Lewes district council and Wildflower Lewes have been planting up verges across Lewes District for three years. There are several different types of meadows, those that are more biodiversity rich – which are perennial wildflowers – are sown once and then left to get on with it, year on year. The other meadows are the annual wildflower seeds chosen for our pollinators – these are much prettier and have to be sown yearly. These mini-meadows are scattered across roadside verges, recreation fields, housing estates and cemeteries. This year all the meadows were teeming with butterflies, bees, grasshopper and crickets. It’s amazing just how many insects benefit from such small areas.
“We want to improve the biodiversity of our district, educate and inspire others to do the same and hopefully they will get closer to nature by visiting more green spaces. We plant chalk-loving plug plants in some areas to create mini-downland areas in the hope that residents will get out more, reducing social isolation and improving health and wellbeing. We receive many compliments about how the wildflower verges have make them happy on their way to work and school – the wider impact a small patch of ground can have on people is tremendous and shouldn’t be underestimated.” Karen Rigby-Faux, Lewes
Source: The Guardian
3 Nov 2022