Life on the Verge in Devon

Our roadside verges are sanctuaries for wildflowers, pollinating insects, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. They also provide essential green corridors for which these species disperse. Furthermore, for many people wildflowers on our roadside verges provide an essential personal wellbeing and contribute greatly to their feeling of wellbeing.

Since the 1930’s, 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost or modified. This loss of habitat has meant our pollinating insects have suffered steep declines and 87 species of wildflower are threatened with extinction.

Appropriate management of our roadside verges is essential. Without careful management, wildflowers on our road verges can be lost through too frequent cutting, or outcompeted by brambles, scrub and vigorous coarse grasses.

Flowering roadside hedgebank in Westleigh, North Devon
Flowering roadside hedgebank in Westleigh, North Devon

Devon County Council Grass Cutting Policy

It is Devon County Council policy that grass cutting on road verges is only carried out when deemed necessary for the following reasons: to maintain visibility areas/splays for highway users and/or to provide forward visibility to signs.

The health and safety of road traffic users is Devon County Council’s main priority, but Devon County Council is always exploring opportunities with our principal Highways contractors as to whether it is possible for our road verges to be cut for the benefit of wildlife without incurring unreasonable costs to the tax payer.

Regarding the frequency of cutting, Devon County Council will cut road verges within visibility splays on the following schedule:

• Rural roads on the priority network (60 mph roads), such as A and B class roads, are cut 2-3 times a year between mid-May and mid-June. Other non-priority rural roads are cut once a year within the same time frame.

• Grass-cutting in visibility areas with speed restriction of 40 mph and under (referred to as “urban” roads) is undertaken up to four times a year, sometimes by district and town/parish councils using a contribution from Devon County Council*

*Note that grass-cutting may be done more frequently by district and city/town/parish councils and this is at their discretion and is funded by them

More information on Devon County Council’s grass cutting and invasive weed policies can be found here

Get Involved

Devon County Council is encouraging communities to manage verges for wildlife (where safe to do so and not in conflict with health and safety management of verges), by downloading our free step-by-step guidance document from the bottom of this webpage.

The ‘Life on the Verge in Devon’ document provides practical guidance on what steps are required to manage a road verge for wildlife.

Wildflower Verge as managed as part of the Life on the Verge Biosphere Project in North Dev

If you are already managing a road verge, then we are always looking for verge management case studies and community champions – so please get in touch if you can help.

It is important to note that any verge management plans developed by your parish or community group, need to be agreed with Devon County Council Environment Group prior to any work beginning. 

Special Verges

A number of important verges within the county have been designated by Devon County Council as Special Verges, due to their exceptional wildlife value or their value to communities. Currently, there are 112 Special Verges located right throughout Devon, each one with its own specific survey and management card.

The location of all of Devon’s special verges can be found at Devon County Council’s environmental viewer, under the Ecology/Geology tab. Please email nature@devon.gov.uk if you would like to help manage a special verge or obtain more information (a survey card and management information is available for each).

Document Downloads

Life on the Verge in Devon Guidance DocumentRoad Verge Survey and Safety Guidance
Risk Assessment FormLife on the Verge in Devon Promotional Poster
Common Invasives DocumentSee if a local botany expert can help!

Road Verge Case studies and Useful Links

Beer Road, Seaton – Management Plan. Produced by the Axe Vale and District Conservation Society, 2015.

Tarka County Trust’s  ‘Life on the Verge’ HLF project within the North Devon Biosphere, began in November 2016 and has helped local communities to manage verges for wildlife. This project has produced a step-by-step guide on how to how to get started with your community group and what to do when to get road verges into management for wildlife. This project is organised by project co-ordinator Jo Pullin, whose contact details are available via the link above.

Plantlife verge guidance: The conservation organisation Plantlife has produced a ‘Managing Grassland Road Verges Best Practice Guide’ which sets out management principles for road verges.

Picture Gallery