Make Hay not Verge Rage

Is Verge Rage breaking out in East Anglia ?  BBC’s Look East is tweeting about people in dispute over whether to cut flowery road verges for ‘safety reasons’ or to let them grow tall and flower for wildlife and beauty.

verge rage

Part of the problem and part of the solution is better management, which would mean more but smaller flowers and grasses. In short, cut the verges for hay rather than gang-mowing them, which stifles and kills off most flowers under a mulch of decaying veg’, and encourages a tall rank growth of a few grasses and one or two plants like cow parsley.

As I discussed last May in a blog Blander Britain. No primroses at Primrose Corner,  sadly most roadside verges contain far fewer flowers than they once did, because they are over-fertilized by both modern farm fertilizer pollution and gang mowing.

A change in County Council management policy could help resolve this problem and avoid it descending into Verge Rage.  So if you are on the verge of raging against overgrown verges, please think instead about asking for this win-win solution.  ‘Old fashioned’  hay cutting means allowing plants to grow, flower and set seed which is great for natural diversity, and then (most important), lifting and taking away the cut vegetation.  Each year this is done, reduces the rank vegetation, allowing smaller flowers to multiply and live side by side, supporting more insects and other wildlife, and even reducing the overall need to cut verges.

Modern machinery such as ‘forage harvesters‘ is used to do this on nature reserves.  It does not need large scale hay making equipment, just a bit of imagination and organizing.  From a conservation point of view, verges are incredibly important as they are some of the very few ‘natural’ spots left in our intensively farmed countryside.

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One Response to Make Hay not Verge Rage

  1. Sue Everett says:

    Cutting verges up to mid May is often beneficial because it reduces the tall grass, nettle and cow parsley and gives flowers the chance to flourish (unless the verges are full of woodland edge species such as bluebell and primrose – those verges which need cutting in late spring after they have flowered). Otherwise it is a mistake to seek for no cutting as a general rule during spring. Verges have also changed because there is no longer a droving tradition where cattle and sheep were driven along lanes. But the huge deposition of ammonia and poor application of fertiliser, both artificial and slurry, have taken their toll. Fertiliser is still being spun through hedges, sometimes into adjacent gardens, and on to road verges. Slurry isn’t usually injected and creates massive localised ammonia emissions and N deposition. This is the norm along much of Britain’s pastoral landscapes.

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