There are around 4,000 miles of rural roadside verges, as well as 1,100 hectares of grass in urban areas in Hampshire maintained by Hampshire Highways. Our grass cutting programme ensures that there is good visibility for everyone using the roads, while at the same time giving as much protection as possible to Hampshire’s diverse wildlife. Here we talk to our highways department to find out more …
How often are the grass verges cut?
In towns and villages, the district or borough council cuts the highway verges on our behalf, and although this can vary by district, it is usually once every three to four weeks during spring and summer – from March until October. Outside towns and villages, we cut a narrow strip alongside the road once a year during the growing season, and the full width of the verge once every three years. The vegetation needs to be shorter, and is cut more regularly, around bends or junctions, for example, so motorists maintain full visibility.
Why are the verges cut back this much?
Verges are cut back more frequently in towns and villages, whereas rural areas are a more natural habitat for animals and plants, so are therefore not cut back as often. However, good visibility on the roads is vital for motorists and other road users and so it is important to trim back verges to maintain clear lines of sight. Keeping the verges cut back occasionally, keeps the larger scrubs and trees at bay; this then allows some of the other plants chance to grow.
Are rare plants and flowers considered when cutting grass verges?
Hampshire has around 200 Roadside Verges of Ecological Importance, and the cutting of these is timed to allow the identified rare flower species the chance to grow properly. These areas are cut early in the season during April, to reduce invasive plants such as thistles or vigorous grasses, or in late September, so that rare species have had time to flower and set seed for the next year.
Will more flowers grow if the grass verges are cut less?
Regular mowing mimics grazing by animals. Chalk grassland verges, on the Alresford by-pass for example, thrive on regular cutting because it maintains the short, cropped, species-rich downland habitat once maintained by sheep. Specialist rare plants are earmarked for particular mowing regimes that avoid their main flowering season. For example, several verges around Four Marks support the rare Violet Helleborine, which flowers late.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes there are. We do not cut the verges in the open New Forest at all, as these are not part of the public highway but are part of the Forest and are grazed by the New Forest ponies and other animals.
You can report grass and foliage growth that is causing a safety risk because of reduced viability directly to Hampshire Highways.