A different approach to managing our waysides and verges. Let’s keep the ‘ONB’ in AONB!

An important message from our Tree Warden

The small pastures of the High Weald AONB were once an integral part of its forest landscape providing habitat for the flowers and grasses that gave the area its unique character. These grassland habitats are also the main and, in some cases, the only food sources for many species of small mammal and insect.

Some of these plant and animal species’ names start ‘Common…’ but now the prefix seems odd because so many of them have become rare and endangered.

Most open pastureland in the AONB has been ‘improved’ for hay crops and grazing animals over the years by re-seeding, fertilisers and herbicides rendering it hostile to wild flowers and making our roadside verges the last vestiges of the High Weald grassland habitat.

If we aren’t to lose the plant and animal species that depend on natural grassland for their very existence, and the beauty of the High Weald’s wild flowers, we need to manage these increasingly rare resources more sympathetically than we have been doing so far.

In essence, except where roadside vegetation needs to be controlled for driver safety and pedestrian access, good management can be summed up in the phrase “Cut once (late-July through to September), clear cuttings”. This encapsulates the need to wait until wild flowers have set seed – but not delay which would allow a thatch of dead vegetation to build up – and to remove the cuttings to keep the fertility of the soil low.

Good management can save you money – a single cut is less expensive than multiple cuts (and releases less CO2 into the environment)!

There is an excellent (free) booklet available from Plantlife called The Good Verge Guide that gives a great deal of sensible, interesting and valuable information and guidance. All landowners with a roadside boundary owe it to the beautiful landscape in which we all live to look through it and think about the best way to manage our parishes’ roadside verges. Let’s keep the ‘ONB’ in AONB!