A Brighter Future for Buckfastleigh’s Verges

As Devon’s glorious wildflowers burst into bloom, the newly formed Buckfastleigh Action for Nature Group is getting ready to take over management of some of the town’s verges for the benefit of wildflowers and wildlife.  Too often roadside verges, which can offer refuge to rare plant species, are cut before the flowers have set seed, and an area that could be a colourful meadow is reduced to a “tidy” but barren patch of mown grass.

Buckfastleigh Action for Nature was set up in response to Devon County Council’s “Life on the Verge” initiative, a project to support Devon residents, parish councils and community groups to manage their local verges for biodiversity.  Pictured here are conservationists John Walters and the group’s chairperson, Dr. Tracey Hamston (with scythe at the ready), along with Gavin Pearson who has been trained in safe scything.  Supporting them from the Town Council are deputy mayor Erin Kohler-Ockmore and councillor Huw Cox.

Tracey Hamston explains what motivated the group to take on Buckfastleigh’s verges:  “We have lost around 98% of our wildflower meadows since the 1930’s due to changes in farming practices and urbanisation. This is a huge loss for species which rely on this habitat, such as bees and butterflies, not to mention the plants themselves. However, roadside verges can offer refuges to plant species that have nearly disappeared from our landscape and can be havens for insects, birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.  The plant conservation charity, Plantlife, has found that nearly half our species of wildflowers are to be found on verges, and sympathetic management can make a real conservation impact and create a joyful sight for those using the road.”

Buckfastleigh has plans to change the cutting times to allow flowers to bloom, add wildflower seed and remove patches of scrub in places to help the grassland return. The town has its own special species, the Deptford pink, which needs open ground to thrive so clearing bramble is in the plan too.

Urban verges managed with nature in mind, can inspire people to change how they might view their own lawns — perhaps supporting “No Mow May”.  Many organisations are encouraging people this year to experiment with not mowing their lawns in May and into June to see what flowers emerge and notice how many more bees and other insects appear as a result. 

The Town Council has been supportive of the venture.  Deputy Mayor Erin remarked on the pleasure of seeing wild flowers around town for both the residents and for visitors to the area.  Councillor Cox is already involved with management of other green spaces in the town and can’t wait to make a start on breathing new life into these roadside areas.

There are numerous organisations that can provide support to groups, councils or individuals who want to encourage wildflowers in their areas.  Plantlife works nationally and Moor Meadows is a local group that helps people to establish wildflower meadows.  Devon County Council have information about their Life on the Verge initiative here


Deputy Mayor Erin Kohler-Ockmore and Councillor Huw Cox support Buckfastleigh Action for Nature Group at the launch of their verge initiative (Dr. Tracey Hamston, John Walters and Gavin Pearson)