Grass verges across Rochdale are going to look a bit different this summer as a scheme set to boost bees, butterflies and small insects gets under way.
This year, 15 sites across the borough have been chosen as part of a scheme to host pollinator friendly informal flowering lawns or clover verges. Chosen sites include Bury and Rochdale Old Road, Sandy Lane and Hollingworth Road.
The days of manicured grass verges are coming to an end but the less formal replacement provides a host of benefits to a wide range of wildlife.
Like wildflower meadows, informal flowering lawns add colour to the landscape but grow at low levels meaning they are more suitable for urban areas. Clover verges provide a green matt in the winter but a hint of colour in the summer. These drought resistant plants also provide bloom in unusually hot summers. Bees and other pollinators naturally feed on the flowers found in these lawns.
The council maintains 500,000 square metres of highway verges, equal to 100 football pitches. The new scheme will be rolled out to further sites across the borough over time. It will change how land is managed and reduce the amount of chemicals used to maintain them in a bid to encourage more bees and insects. Over time, the chosen verges will need less cutting, which will reduce costs and deliver a higher quality roadside environment.
Seeding will take place this month and plants will need time to establish with fully flowering displays to be seen from next year.
Research shows that one in ten pollinating insects is on the verge of extinction and a third of bee and butterfly species is declining. According to Friends of the Earth, 97% of wildflower meadows in the UK have been lost since 1945, leaving bees hungry and homeless.
Mark Widdup, the council’s director of neighbourhoods said:
“Pollination by bees is said to be worth £430m per year to British agricultural production. We have pollinators to thank for a third of what we eat.
“They pollinate much of the food that makes our diets healthy and tasty – from the apple in our lunchboxes, to the tomatoes on our pizzas.
“Pollinators such as bees are vital to the environment and the economy and as a council we play an important role in safeguarding and restoring their habitat.
“Attractive wildflower meadows, flowering lawns and clover verges create spaces for insects to forage and find shelter. They strike a balance between maintaining our blooming borough, and the safety of drivers and staff.”