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Science
NATURE
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Monday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Tuesday 11:00
Nature offers a window on global natural history, providing a unique insight into the natural world, the environment, and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it.
nhuradio@bbc.co.uk
LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 27 June
PRESENTER
BRETT WESTWOOD
Brett Westwood
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Monday 27 June 2005
Brett with Sarah Mason next to the road
Brett with Sarah Mason on the A424

The Soft Estate

Road verges could be viewed as just narrow strips of land that pass us by in a blur through a car window.  Without a doubt they improve the view when you are stuck in a traffic jam but they have a much broader importance. 

Road verges on motorways and trunk roads in England are the responsibility of the Highways Agency who refer to the land covered by road verges as "the soft estate".  The maintenance of verges on smaller roads is usually the responsibility of the local county council.

On older and smaller roads, verges have usually been formed from the landscape around them such as a fringe of grassland from a former haymeadow.  Therefore these grasslands are home to many important wildflower species.  When new motorways and trunk roads are built, the landscape planners can supplement what's already there with complimentary plants and shrubs to provide a real boost to biodiversity. 

The flowering plants attract insects and long grass is ideal habitat for small mammals like voles, which in turn attract birds of prey like kestrels. 

With verges acting as a reservoir and undisturbed refuge for wild species, their management is of concern to conservationsists and wildlife organisations.  Verges have to be cut for safety and driver visibility reasons but when and how they are cut is important. 

Many wildlife trusts are liaising with the Highways Agency, local councils and the public to ensure that road verges and their plant and animal inhabitants are protected whilst providing an attractive and safely constructed edge to the road.
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