Wilder Road Verges Project

Since April 2021, Buckinghamshire Council and Buckinghamshire Highways have been trialing the Wilder Road Verges project.

This is supported by the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership, Butterfly Conservation and the Chilterns Conservation Board.

On carefully selected pilot sites, the projects aims to:

  • increase wildflower interest on verges
  • lower soil fertility
  • reduce the need for cutting on these verges

Managing our verges for wildlife

Wildflower habitats have declined significantly in the UK. Wildflowers can provide:

  • a vital source of nectar for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects
  • a food source for birds and other wildlife
  • shelter for insects and animals in the long grass

Changing the management of our road verges has numerous benefits for the community as well as for wildlife, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or costly.

Other environmental benefits

Wilder verges also offer excellent benefits for our environment and our community. They can:

  • absorb stormwater
  • decrease erosion
  • trap carbon

Maintaining a safe highway network

While we’re actively changing the way we manage our verges, we’re very mindful to still meet our legal obligation in keeping the roads safe for the highway users.

We recognise that verges:

  • along sight-lines and around junctions is a priority
  • should be cut regularly for the safety of highway users

To achieve this, we ensure that we:

  • maintain vision splays at junctions
  • cut 1m strips immediately adjacent to the highway, preventing the collapse of vegetation onto the highway

Different plants, insects and animals require different ecological conditions, so verges with a diversity of open areas, scrub and woodland will support a variety of species.

By carrying out a 1m swathe cut, we’re creating a mixture of long and short grass which can benefit invertebrates.

How to learn more

Due to the interest in wildflower road verges increasing, more than 126,000 people have signed Plantlife’s petition for Wild Road Verges.

Creating Wilder Road Verges webinar

In March 2022, the pilot team reached out to town and parish councils across Buckinghamshire to share learning through a webinar, Creating Wilder Road Verges.

Dr Phil Sterling, a road verges expert from Butterfly Conservation, presented on the principles of low fertility and cut-and-collect management. Over 60 representatives from local councils attended the webinar.

Wilder Road Verges Toolkit

Alongside the webinar, the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership have produced a Wilder Road Verges Toolkit.

Aimed at town and parish councils, the toolkit provides guidance on managing road verges for wildflower abundance.

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust have also presented a webinar with useful guidance on this topic as part of their Wilder Parishes project.

Wilder verges in your area

Your road verges will either be managed by Buckinghamshire Council and Buckinghamshire Highways, or the Town or Parish Council will have devolved services and undertaken the management.

If your verges are managed by Buckinghamshire Council and Buckinghamshire Highways you can express an interest in wilder verges online.

If your services in Buckinghamshire are devolved, the town or parish council have full responsibility over all maintenance and can make the decision on how to undertake cuts, as long as the safety of the highway and footpaths is maintained. You can contact your local town or parish council to express your interest in wilder verges in your area.

The local council can proceed to make such changes without further consultation with Buckinghamshire Council or Buckinghamshire Highways.

View the list of devolved towns and parishes.