Looking after Hampshire’s diverse wildlife

It’s that time of year when wild flowers are springing up along Hampshire’s rural roadside verges, bringing them alive with colourful displays that are a delight to see

May 23 2019

Roadside verge

There are currently 198 sites across the county that are known to offer vital refuge for rare species of plants and other wildlife, so when we send out our grass cutters, these habitats are given special attention. Our maintenance approach seeks to preserve wildlife habitats as far as possible, without impacting on road safety

We cut grass verges in rural areas once a year, usually during summer, with the cutting of some verges timed to allow rare species and flower-rich habitats to flower and seed.

These verges, known as Roadside Verges of Ecological Importance (RVEIs), are home to bees, butterflies and moths that rely on flower rich grassland to provide a source of nectar and pollen throughout their life cycles.

The 198 RVEIs have specific cutting regimes and are monitored and reviewed on a rolling programme by the Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre.

Plants on RVEIs need to remain uncut throughout their flowering and seeding seasons, so they can survive and reproduce. Conventional cutting throughout summer on other verges would result in a decrease in biodiversity interest over time, so we make every effort to look after Hampshire’s diverse wildlife by cutting RVEIs in April and/or late September, depending on the species present.

For example, the Violet Helleborine, which is found in various verges in Four Marks, is not cut between May and October to encourage flowers to grow, set seed and regain their former extent. They produce an array of green and pink flowers during the summer months, followed by very fine seeds being revealed in September and October.

Other rare plant species found around Hampshire include the Red Tipped Cudweed found near Fleet and the Tower Mustard found in Kingsley. These are both facing an high risk of extinction in the wild and need specialised management on our RVEIs, including scrub clearance and rotavation.

Other verges thrive on regular cutting, such as chalk grassland verges, on the Alresford by-pass for example. The more regular mowing of these verges, especially at roundabouts, mimics the grazing by animals and maintains the short, cropped, species-rich downland habitat once maintained by sheep.

We also protect RVEIs for Glow worms and the rare Striped Lychnis Moth caterpillar by not cutting until late September.

Although every effort is made to protect Hampshire’s diverse wildlife, keeping the county’s 5,500 miles of highway safe for all road users means grass and foliage needs to be cut more regularly at locations with known visibility issues.

Grass and foliage that is causing a safety risk because of reduced visibility can be reported online.

To report any important plant sightings on our roadside verges, email our Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre (HBIC)