North West road verges

Wild flowers in verge

North West road verges: the “Better Wildlife Verges” project on the island of Anglesey

For more than 20 years selected verges on Anglesey have been managed to protect their wildflowers. The Local Biodiversity Action Plan and AONB Management Plan both recognise the value of road verges for their attractiveness in full bloom and as refuges for wildflowers that have become less common on farmland in recent decades. Our verges, particularly beside minor roads, are in many cases fragments of a vanished landscape – slivers cut off from the adjacent land at the time of the enclosures alongside roads that have been in existence for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.

Wild flower montage

In at least one location a plant can still be found 200 years after it was first recorded: Spotted Medick, was recorded beside the road at Lleiniog by the Rev. Hugh Davies in Welsh Botanology, published in 1813, and it can still be found today at the same location. Roadside verges are the last refuge for a number of wildflowers: plants such as Greater Knapweed, Field Scabious, Betony, Bladder Campion, Harebells, Bitter Vetch, Bloody Cranesbill, Common Rockrose, Spurge Laurel, Marjoram, and Wild Basil. National rarities are occasionally found such as the impressive Greater Broomrape, a parasite on gorse, found on one of the lanes leading to Red Wharf Bay.

Of the 1070 km of roads on the island probably less than 30 km (3%) have a really rich and diverse flora. The “best” verges are found bordering unimproved farmland and particularly in those parts of the island on limestone. Most of the habitats on the island are represented on our verges: dune and heath, woodland edge, semi-natural grassland and ditches with Water Voles, newts, damselflies and frogspawn in the spring. Common Lizards, Slow-worms, Glow worms, Bumble bees and a variety of butterfly species can all be seen on our verges.

16 sites comprising 3.5 km (0.3%) are managed to maintain and enhance their wildlife value.

Verge marker

They are identified in a schedule of Conservation Management Areas (CMAs) prepared by Anglesey’s Highways Department and North Wales Wildlife Trust. They are marked on the road by a solid white triangle at each end of the CMA so that the verge cutting operatives know when to stop mowing and when to re-start.

An Environmental Asset: for many people flowers on roadside verges are the only wildflowers that they see. If they go for a walk across farmland the view may be “green and pleasant” but colourful and buzzing with bees and butterflies it is not. Verge flowers in the spring contribute to a feeling of well-being. Visitors stop to admire our more colourful verges so that wildflower rich verges are an economic asset – enhancing the tourist experience!

Community involvement: Many local people feel passionately about their local verges. We have a group of 20 volunteers involved in recording the plants and helping with management where appropriate.

Volunteers at work

Management is essential: What many people do not realise is that without careful management these wildflowers will be lost forever even from our verges. They cannot compete with the invasion of brambles and scrub and with the more vigorous growth of Nettles, Docks, Hogweed and coarse grasses, promoted by the seepage of fertiliser from adjacent farmland and the added nitrogen from vehicle exhaust fumes and These flower-rich verges not only need to be allowed to set seed but after mowing in the Autumn the cut material – “arisings” - should be raked off and removed
• to avoid the flowering plants being smothered under a thick thatch of compost.
• to remove material which would rot down and add nutrients to the soil.