Life on the Verge in Devon

Logo: Life on the Verge
(Max Anderson)
(Max Anderson)

Road verges are an important wildlife resource and an integral part of Devon's heritage. When managed properly, road verges provide ecological networks with an astonishing amount of wildlife - according to Plantlife, road verges across the UK support over 700 plant species and nearly 45% of our native flora. They also provide one of the only opportunities for us to see wildflowers on a daily basis, in our towns and villages.

This is even more important considering since the 1930s, 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost, and as a result our pollinating insects have suffered steep declines. Roadside verges are one of the few remaining places where our native wildlife can thrive.

A pilot project in the North Devon Biosphere to help communities revitalize their roadside verges, and by doing so create a network of safe havens for wildflowers and endangered pollinators, has been so successful it has been launched across the whole of Devon county.

(Tom Hynes)
(Tom Hynes)

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) and have produced a free step-by-step guidance document for local communities and parish councils.

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

[Devon County Council Website - click here]

The pilot scheme in North Devon, delivered through a partnership of Devon County Council, North Devon Biosphere, Devon Biological Records Centre, North Devon AONB, and hosted by the Tarka Country Trust aimed to help arrest this decline.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) ‘Life on the Verge – Biosphere’ (LoVe-B) project has led to 40 North Devon verges being managed and monitored by communities over the last three years and more than 100 volunteers have learnt new skills to help them maintain and improve their condition for wildlife

[North Devon Biosphere website - click here]

(Ben Lee)
(Ben Lee)

Life on the Verge Project Coordinator at the Biosphere Jo Pullin said: “As well as providing value to wildlife we found that communities have been keen for their verges to look attractive. For example, Braunton Parish Council has pledged to manage their verges for wildflowers for people to enjoy, especially during the tourist season. By managing their grass verges for wildlife, Braunton Parish Council are transforming them into vibrant new habitats. It’s been a great success. The project has gained a good reputation and has been used as a point of reference with conservation organisations. Learning from this project has been shared with Plantlife, Devon Wildlife Trust, The Biosphere Reserve.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment said: “Climate change, road side verges and the health of our pollinators and natural environment are inextricably linked. Climate change has impacted the natural rhythms of weather, and pollinators have been affected. Well maintained grass verges form corridors for wildlife and are part of the wider landscape conservation measures needed to help protect the environment.”

If you live in Devon and are interested in managing some of your road verges as a habitat for wildlife, then please email to find out more.

Devon County Council can support you by:

1 Finding a local expert who may be able assess your existing verges for its potential wildlife value

2 Provide easy to follow guidance on managing verges for nature

3 Provide information on making verges more floristically diverse.

4 Organising inspiring talks and practical workshops to help support you.