Special roadside verges often represent the only uncultivated areas of grassland in an intensively farmed landscape where wild meadow plants may still be found.
Plants such as common knapweed, greater knapweed, marjoram and field scabious are typical of this grassland.
Four very important and nationally rare plants that grow on verges are sulphur clover, crested cow-wheat, lesser calamint and cowslip.
Special roadside verges
Over 40 important verges within the district have been designated as special roadside verges. This means that the many rare flowers that grow on these verges are protected.
The special verges are marked with wooden posts at either end, to try to make them as visible as possible. The posts have a white plaque to warn contractors that the area within the posts is specially protected and no dumping or unauthorised management should occur.
Find if a verge is protected
You can check if a verge is protected by searching our constraints maps.
You'll also be able use these maps to see if there are any other wildlife sites nearby.
In May or June a one-metre-wide safety cut is carried out along the carriageway edge. The cut may be wider where sight lines or junctions require it and this must include the special roadside verges.
Special roadside verges also receive additional cuts at other times of year to benefit particular plants. It is difficult but essential to get the management balance right and the special verges are monitored to ensure that they are reaching their full wildlife potential. The timing of the cutting is planned to maximise the opportunities for the wild flowers and grasses to flower and set seed, and at the same time meet the needs of invertebrate populations on the sites. The management prevents these grassland sites from changing into scrub or woodland.
You can find out about grass and vegetation management in Essex on essexhighways.org.
Who is involved
The special roadside verges project team includes:
- Essex Wildlife Trust
- Essex County Council
- Essex Field Club
- local museum services
Essex County Council is ultimately responsible for roadside verges. They make sure that the verges are safe for road users and that their contractors manage them correctly. They also keep current maps and fund the additional cuts on the special verges. Essex Wildlife Trust, local museum services and Essex Field Club survey and report on the ecological condition of the verges.
Farmers and landowners can provide invaluable knowledge about the history of management on a site.
They can help by managing boundaries and adjacent land sensitively, and in some cases they are contracted to cut the verges to maintain their ecological condition.
► For general information about verges and their wildlife contact Essex Wildlife Trust on 01621 862 980, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
► For information and botanical records of special roadside verges in Uttlesford contact Saffron Walden Museum on 01799 510333, email email@example.com.