As the snowdrops' seed-heads begin to form, and the daffodils and primroses are in full splendour, the Life on the Verge – Biosphere project, made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), has been busy finalising the dates for its summer programme of free plant identification courses. These courses are a key part of the project’s ambition to coordinate a network of volunteers to identify/restore and manage species-rich verges across the North Devon Biosphere.
A number of ‘special verges’ along roads or other public right of way have already been identified by Devon County Council and require resurveying as most haven’t been surveyed for several years. Elsewhere there are likely to be many other verges known to local people for their summer displays or particular species of interest which could also be included in the project or a less interesting but prominent parish verge which could benefit from ‘livening-up’. In addition to a splendid display of flowers and enhanced provision for native pollinators under threat, species-rich verges need cutting only once or twice per year – which may help reduce maintenance costs for verges managed by parish or town councils.
Coordinator Clare Manning said ‘After ensuring all volunteers are aware of necessary Highways Safety provisions to keep them safe, the first step in our project is to get out and survey verges to identify which are already in wildlife rich and in good condition and which will need more significant practical management to restore or create wildlife interest. Verge surveying will form an ongoing part of the project in order to assess the impact of practical management we undertake. Whilst our current focus is to establish our survey programme this summer, we have exciting plans developing for practical activities later in the year. I would encourage people to get in touch if they know of a verge that could benefit from the project, or are simply interested in volunteering with the project’.
The free plant identification and survey training sessionsare located across the Biosphere Reserve to minimise travel distances for volunteers as far as possible. Training dates are: May 30th 5.30-8.30pm at Fremington Quay, June 3rd 2-5pm at Meeth Quarry Nature Reserve, June 10th Winsford Bridge East (meet at Arlington Court carpark) 2pm-5pm, July 1st at Marsland Nature Reserve 2pm-5pm and July 12th Meshaw Nature Reserve (near Rackenford) 5.30-8.30pm.
To book or express interest in the project contact Project Coordinator Clare Manning on 07392 239719 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Adrian Culley, manager of Marsdens Devon Cottages which is raising money for the project by asking anyone who books a holiday through the agency to donate £1 said ‘Though it can sometimes be easy to take floral displays on our roadside verges for granted, they have a positive impact on our lives; whether you are local person or tourist, it’s hard not to feel uplifted when you walk, cycle or drive past a verge bursting with life and colour during spring, summer and early autumn.’
Dave Edgcombe from North Devon Coast AONB said ‘Having lost 97% of our species-rich grassland since the 1930s, verges along our roads and other public rights of way are one of the few remaining places where our native wildlife can thrive. But species-rich verges do need to be managed to prevent dominant species and scrub from outcompeting our wildflowers and that’s where Life on the Verge- Biosphere Project comes in, supported by a grant from our Sustainable Development Fund’
Other project supporters are Devon County Council Highways, The Devon Biodiversity Records Centre and The North Devon Biosphere Service and Biosphere Foundation.