Four grass verges in Shaftesbury could be seeded with wildflowers to increase biodiversity.
On Tuesday evening, councillors on Shaftesbury Town Council’s committee that deals with open spaces appeared to be positive about a project which could add colourful flowers to the town’s roadsides. “I think that we need to undertake these trials so we can show our community the benefits of wildflower verges, versus the normal manicured look,” said the Town Council’s Business Manager, Brie Logan.
By next summer, the roadsides at the Linden Park and Christy’s Lane junction, the verge opposite the new homes on the A30 Salisbury Road, land alongside New Road and a grassed area near the Royal Chase roundabout could all be wildflower havens.
Councillors were presented with a report outlining the vision of Salisbury-based conservation charity Plant Life. That group wants all verges managed for wildlife, to restore and expand flower-rich habitats, because they say it will ensure the survival and natural spread of both common and rare species.
Some Dorset towns have already introduced wildflower verges. Shaftesbury Town Council staff joined members of the town’s Open Spaces Group at a demonstration in Blandford Forum at the end of August. But it is not as straightforward as tossing out a handful of flower seeds. The party observed the specialist gear needed to maintain wildflower verges.
“The equipment that Blandford use is a rather large machine but their areas are much larger than ours, so they warrant a big vehicle for that use. We need to look at what is out there on the market that can be used to fit our needs,” explained Brie. “Essentially, the equipment will cut the area back twice per year. It will recirculate the area that has been cut and ‘spit out’ the seeds for further replanting,” she added.
Senior Groundsman Mike Wakely advised that half of the Town Council’s current kit would have been ‘disposed of, sold or traded in’, but because the necessary machinery would be used so infrequently and on such small parcels of land, Shaftesbury Town Council is considering sharing equipment with neighbouring towns in North Dorset.
One solution could be to ask Dorset Council to maintain the town’s wildflower verges, which they do elsewhere in the county. Mike advised that Dorset currently pays the Town Council for verge maintenance, so funding could be lost with that option.
Councillors heard that it was important to explain what was happening to locals. Residents might raise concerns if they felt that previously tended open spaces were starting to appear unkempt. “The verges would potentially be cut only twice a year instead of the normal eight to nine cuts a year,” said Brie.
Cllr Peter Yeo wanted to make sure that residents on the Persimmon estate opposite one of the proposed test areas were consulted. But Peter believed that the idea, ‘doesn’t need selling to The Maltings’. He said that locals often share pictures of insects and moths spotted in gardens on social media and he felt they would be supportive.
The Full Council will have the final say on whether the trials will take place. The proposals will go before members later this autumn.