The conservation charity Plantlife reports that, “over 700 species of wildflower grow on the UK’s road verges – nearly 45% of our total flora. And where wildflowers lead, wildlife follows… a multitude of bees, butterflies, birds and bugs. All enjoyed by 23 million road commuters.”
In 2019, Martlesham Parish Council decided to set up the Wildflower Project Working Group to see what it could do to improve the biodiversity of the verges in its patch.
To begin, surveys of the plants on a selected number of verges were undertaken by two parish councillors with a keen interest in wild plants and the deputy clerk (a countryside officer in a previous life with an interest in wildflowers). From the results of the surveys and following guidance from The Good Verge Guide (Plantlife June 2016), a proposal was put together identifying verges with the potential to develop into valuable wildflower areas achieved by altering how often and when they are mown.
Following the parish council’s acceptance of the proposal, the working group has set about engaging with landowners and has recently had confirmation from Cllr Mallinder, Cabinet Member for the Environment for East Suffolk Council, that five verges in the parish that are mown by Norse, the district council’s contractors, will be managed for wildflowers. These verges, found on Top Street (by the village sign), Main Road and Anson Road where it meets Felixstowe Road, will be left to flower and set seed and then cut between mid-July and the end of September with a second cut before Christmas if weather permits. Please note that verges along sightlines and around junctions will continue to be cut regularly to keep these roads safe to use.
As a manager of land itself, the parish council identified two new patches of grass by its office to be managed for wildflowers as part of this new project. These are in addition to the more established wildflower areas beyond the football pitch on the Recreation Ground in Old Martlesham and the area of acid grassland on Martlesham Common Local Nature Reserve.
As well as its work on verges, the Wildflower Project includes other sites in Martlesham where wildflowers are being nurtured. These wild plant havens are the wildflower area on Mill Heath and pockets of St Mary’s Churchyard.
The parish council will be monitoring these verges over the coming years and hope that they will bring benefits to the environment and enhance peoples’ contact with nature on their daily commutes by car and on foot.