Restoring Shropshires Verges Project

Ludlow verge planted with wildflowers to help Bees & Butterflies

Over the last 60 years, 97% of Wildflower Meadows have been lost, resulting in a huge loss of species and bio-diversity, throughout the UK.  In many places, road verges are now being managed for wildlife, allowing wildflowers to thrive, attracting insects and other pollinators. This ensures the survival and natural spread of many wildflowers both common and rare, that are native to the country and provides food for insects that pollinate our food crops.

Restoring Shropshire Verges Project (RSVP) was founded in 2018 by Janet Cobb and set up by local people with support from The National Trust, Caring for God’s Acre, Shropshire Council Highways Department and Shropshire Hills AONB with guidance from Plantlife, to restore and manage wildflower rich verges across Shropshire. There are currently 36 active projects in the county.

A gateway road into Ludlow was identified as a pilot site, chosen for its location and also, in light of recent housing developments nearby and the associated loss of wildlife habitat.

The success of any project like this, depends on the support of local residents and the group realised very early on how important it was to engage with local people.  Volunteers delivered over 100 leaflets, inviting comments and were heartened by the support shown, with some residents offering to grow plants for the verge and to help with watering.

A site survey carried out by a local Botanist, before planting began, showed that a variety of beneficial wildflowers were already present in the verge including – Cranesbill, White Clover, Daisies, Dandelions, Cow Parsley, Timothy Grass, Lesser Celandine, Sorrel, Yarrow and Self-Heal.  All these should now flourish, alongside the new plantings, when the revised mowing regime, is put in place.  Far from just being left to go wild – the site will be monitored and carefully managed, reducing some dominant species, if necessary. A small strip around the edge of the verge will be kept closely mown, to provide definition of where the wildflower planting begins and signs have been erected to show that this is a managed verge.

In April, volunteers began planting up a section of the verge with local Councillors coming along to have a look and an article was published in the local press. The RSVP volunteers grew or donated all the plants including Birds Foot Trefoil which is a food plant for over 130 species of invertebrate and Yellow Rattle, a semi-parasitic plant that weakens grass growth, therefore allowing the wildflowers to establish more quickly.

The grass verge has been transformed into a rich, vibrant tapestry of wildflowers, providing a welcome pop of colour on the road, as well as a haven for wildlife and will continue to be carefully managed by local volunteers so that the balance of grasses and flowers, will become more equal.

In early August, the verge was hand scythed and the arisings raked into rows, to allow them to dry and the seeds to drop, beginning the cycle, again.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing and some peoples’ perception of the site is that, “it looks a mess” but overall, there has been huge support and it has been an incredibly positive project to be involved in.  Knowing that we are doing something to actively help declining wildlife and bio-diversity in the local area, has felt very rewarding.

More and more councils around the country are recognising the benefits of less mowing (not least the financial ones) so if you would like to get involved in setting up a wildflower verge project in your area have LOADS of information, including email/letter templates to send to send to your local council.

Christina O’Neill (Ludlow RSVP)


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