On the verge of something big…

Wednesday 26th August 2015

Bochum Parkway - a verge to be sown with wildflowers as part of the Living HighwBochum Parkway - a verge to be sown with wildflowers as part of the Living Highways project

An area of Sheffield is set to bloom into a colourful wildflower site thanks to a new partnership arrangement with the Wildlife Trust.

‘Living Highways’ is an exciting new collaboration between The Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham, The University of Sheffield and Amey. As part of the 25 year ‘Streets Ahead’ Project, Amey are now responsible for the maintenance of 2 million metre2 of road side verges in Sheffield.

Darren Butt, Streets Ahead’s Operational Director, said: “As part of the Living Highways project we are looking at highway verges and how we can improve the biodiversity.

The seeds will take some time to mature into flowers, so please bear with us if the sight doesn’t look too colourful to begin with, but we’re looking forward to seeing how they brighten up Tinsley roundabout.

We’re asking the public to not walk on the site so that we can give the seeds the very best chance of survival.”

Most of these verges are urban amenity grassland, but they also include some rural verges, shrubs and small patches of greenspace. Amey’s contract with Sheffield City Council is very precise about how these verges should be managed and any proposed variation needs to be agreed with the Council. However, The Wildlife Trust and University are working with Amey to see if things could potentially be done differently in some areas.

Changes to the current regime could include changing the mowing schedule, replacing some amenity grassland areas with wildflowers, introducing native hedgerows or trees. The aims of making such changes would be to benefit biodiversity and ecosystems, improve the visual appearance and potentially decrease maintenance costs. We also hope that improving the wildlife value of linear corridors will create connections and strengthen our ‘network for nature’ as part of a Living Landscape in Sheffield.

The Living Highways Project consists of a research phase where the partners will set up experimental plots to see which changes would bring about the desired benefits, before these could potentially be rolled out more widely across the city in years to come. You may therefore see some different management being carried out on certain verges and associated greenspace. You may also see people undertaking surveys and we would like to get volunteers involved with this.

We understand that some people prefer road verges to be neat and that they need to be kept reasonably tidy for safety reasons. But wildlife prefers them when they are more wild and messy – with a variety of wildflowers – and we do too! We’re really pleased that Streets Ahead are engaging in this experiment as we are convinced that Sheffield’s grass verges can be not only more beautiful but also great for our native plants and wildlife.

Streets Ahead has also recently changed how often the grass on some of the verges across the city is cut in order to protect wildlife. Following advice from Natural England and the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, some of the verges that border or cross ecologically sensitive areas will be cut less frequently.

We know how important it is for local people to be involved with any changes to the management of their neighbourhood and communication with local people will be as essential part of the project.

If you have any input at this stage or would like to volunteer as a surveyor, please contact Nicky Rivers on 0114 263 4335 or n.rivers@wildsheffield.com