An ambitious plan that has transformed more than 70 grass verges around Leicestershire into mini-wildlife havens has won a national award from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The Urban Verge Wildlife Initiative is run by Leicestershire County Council in partnership with NatureSpot. Around 60 parish councils have now signed up to the scheme, which involves volunteers giving up their time to restore and enhance the verges through more sensitive management, including the sowing of native wildflower seeds, natural regeneration and learning about the local wildlife within these important habitats.
The aim of the ambitious project is to improve biodiversity and encourage wildlife through grassland habitat regeneration, with verges being allowed to flourish between April and September, as wildflowers and grasses reach maturity and provide local species with food and habitat.
Parish councils and community groups are given the opportunity to take over the management of roadside verges in their local area and work to help protect, enhance and retain their value for local wildlife.
The success of the scheme in boosting wildlife habitats and encouraging pollinators including bees, butterflies and moths, has now been recognised by Defra, which has named Leicestershire’s Urban Verge Wildlife Initiative as one of 26 national Bees’ Needs Champions Award winners, in the Community Champions category.
The Urban Verge Wildlife Initiative is a wonderful scheme which does so much to protect and enhance the natural environment in our communities, as well as being a great example of partnership working in action.
We all need to play our part in tackling climate change and habitat loss. I am delighted that this project, and the hard work of the partners and volunteers, has been honoured with a national award.
Person:Councillor Ozzy O'Shea, cabinet member for highways and trnsportation
The scheme started in 2020, with just 11 verges, but has now grown to cover 71 verges across 60 parishes. It gives communities the chance to reduce the drastic loss of wildflower meadows, which have reduced by 97 per cent since the 1930s.
It has also gained interest from several other councils across the UK who are interested in starting up similar projects.
Expressions of interest for the 2023 scheme are now open until September this year. Parish councils and community groups interested in joining the scheme can contact the council’s environment team at email@example.com
Leicestershire now has its highest number of designated wildlife verges:
- Over 70 verges across all parishes
- Approximately 37 thousand square metres of grass verge has been marked by the council to be managed differently by volunteers – this area is comparable to the size of Enderby
- NatureSpot recorded 519 species across 11 new verges around the county from different wildlife groups including wildflowers, grasses, and insects.
To find out more about the Urban Verge Wildlife Initiative and how the council is working with NatureSpot to boost biodiversity across the county, please visit NatureSpot's website.