Management of Dorset's Highway Verge
This work is delivered by Dorset’s Greenspace Service.
Vegetation cutting of road verges is divided into two distinct programmes:
- rural – for roads with speed limits of 40 mph and above
- urban areas – for roads with speed limits of 30 mph and below
The rural cutting programme covers all verges on roads above 40mph. The total length of rural roads being cut in Dorset is 2691km (1,672 miles):
- A roads – 319 km (198 miles)
- B roads – 289 km (180 miles)
- C roads – 1025 km (637 miles)
- D roads – 1058 km (657 miles)
Cutting is undertaken by contractors – two cuts per year for A and B class roads, one cut per year for C and D class roads.
The junctions and visibility splays are cut by contractors and also regularly throughout the year on an ‘as needed’ basis by our in-house teams. Where required, we will undertake additional cutting anywhere on the network later in the season, in order to maintain safe passage along the highway.
The urban areas, defined as those within or below the 30 mph zones, are mostly cut by our in-house teams. Sometimes urban verges are cut by local agreements with town or parish councils. We currently have agreements in place with the following organisations:
|Bourton Parish Councilfirstname.lastname@example.org||07702 709557|
|Bridport Town Councilemail@example.com||01308 456722|
|Dorchester Town Councilfirstname.lastname@example.org||01305 266861|
|Gillingham Town Council||GTC@gillinghamdorset-tc.gov.uk||
|Shaftesbury Town Councilemail@example.com||01747 852420|
|Sherborne Town Councilfirstname.lastname@example.org||01935 812807|
|Sturminster Newton Town Councilemail@example.com||01258 475136|
Verges for wildlife
There is a huge opportunity for verges to be managed more sympathetically to help compensate for the 97% reduction in UK wildflower meadows since the 1930s. Dorset Council has significantly changed the way we manage many of our verges in the last few years to do more than ever to protect, conserve and enhance the verges in Dorset for biodiversity.
These changes include:
Increasing Urban 'cut and collect' mowing
We are increasing the amount of 'cut and collect' mowing for the verges within the 30 mph urban road network – this is where we collect the vegetation clippings instead of letting them decompose into the soil. 'Cut and collect' happens in North Dorset, Weymouth, Portland, Purbeck, Bridport, West Dorset and East Dorset. Collecting the grass clippings reduces the soil fertility, resulting in lower growth rates, longer periods between cutting and a far better environment for wildflowers to establish and thrive; in some examples a reduction from 7 cuts a year to 2 has been achieved within towns and verges full of wildflowers. This reduction in verge cutting allows wildflowers the time to complete their life cycles which benefits bees and other pollinators. This method also saves time and reduces fuel consumption, further aiding the environment.
Cutting the rural road network once instead of twice
We now cut the B and C class rural road network once instead of twice. Previously all rural roads (40 mph and above) received two cuts per year with a side arm flail. This is now reduced to one cut, from late June / July onwards. This ensures not all the verges are cut in a similar time and many flowers complete their life cycles uninterrupted before cutting.
Creating designated Sites of Nature Conservation Interest
We are creating verges which have been designated Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs) by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT). Working with DWT, we hope to create, by good management, more verges of SNCI quality due to the diversity of herbaceous species present.
Managing Conservation Verges
Some verges already have high biodiversity value. These are known as “conservation verges”. These verges avoid the first cut, and are then cut as usual later in the summer.
This package of measures ensures that biodiversity can thrive on more of our verges each year. While we have reduced cutting, it is important to remember that for wildflowers to exist on our verges, they will still need cutting. Too little cutting results in verges turning to bramble and scrub, which would prevent wildflowers from living on our verges. Many may think it is a paradox, but if we want good populations of wildflowers, we will inevitably need to sometimes cut verges with wildflowers present. The vast majority of any cut flowers will soon bloom again between cuts, so don’t be too alarmed if you sometimes see mowers cutting verges where wildflowers are present.
Some urban verges are still cut conventionally 5 or 6 times a year using mowers that leave the clippings behind to decompose into the soil. Over time we hope to reduce this method and move to more “cut and collect” mowing on the urban verges, reducing the number of cuts and collecting the clippings.
Please note it is dangerous to maintain verges, and members of the public should avoid doing it themselves. However, if you or a group are interested in performing maintenance tasks in your community, then please contact our Coast and Countryside service.
Control of weeds on highway hard services, e.g. kerb edges, is done with a biodegradable herbicide. This work is carried out once or twice a year during the growing season. This helps reduce weeds and maintain the integrity of Highway infrastructure.