Angela Lambert
14th May 2013 

It’s surprising how many different species of plant, native and non-native one can find growing at the side of the road.

Just after Christmas, my beloved Isuzu Trooper truck developed a terminal fault and came to a grinding halt.  It’s still sitting in a shed somewhere next to its replacement engine while my husband and son wait for the fairies to repair it.

In dog walking terms, that means no more forays out of the village for the time being (I don’t want dirty dogs in my Fiesta)  and so the “girls” and I have been taking the same route every day for four months. Far from being boring or repetitive it’s actually revealed to me a few things that I never realised were there.

Biodiversity at the side of the road

ivy flowerI’ve been amazed to see what a wide variety of grasses, flowers, trees and shrubs I’ve previously disregarded whilst zooming along in the care.  I’ve also been disgusted at the sheer volume of rubbish, presumably thrown out of vehicles, that has ended up at the side of this pretty country road.

The side of the road, whether it be a leafy lane, a dual carriageway or even an urban street, can be a great resource for wildlife.  In Margaret Atherden’s book “Wild Flowers on the Edge” the author points out that in North Yorkshire alone, there are 6,000 miles of road, most of them with some sort of verge to either side……..so throughout the UK, we have ………..oh, countless square metres of wildlife habitat that could perhaps be managed better.

violet in road verge

In my hour-long walk from home, along the road and then down a hedge-lined farm track, there must be at least 20 species of pollen-rich plants.  On the corner, just by my house are violets, a real joy on a winter afternoon.  Then, as the year has progressed, my journey has been filled with, amongst other things, vipers bugloss, white deadnettle, red deadnettle, ground ivy, dandelions, lords and ladies, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, cherry plum, plantain, crab apple, dog rose, ivy, buttercups and a wealth of different grass species.

 

Certainly, there’s enough variety to ensure a whole year’s supply of pollen and nectar for butterflies, bees, hoverflies and moths as well as shelter for mice and voles (food for local barn owls and kestrels) and nesting sites for small birds.  Come the autumn, there will be hips and haws for the birds to feed on and, most importantly, blackberries for my jam pan.

red dead nettleSo the next time you take a car journey, provided you’re not the driver, try to see how many wild things you can spot growing at the side of the road.  You may well be surprised.

 

 

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