Last year Devon County let their contractors cut the verges at Bickington at peak flowering time for the orchids that grow on the sides of the old A38. Amongst the victims were Bee Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and Southern Marsh Orchid. When contacted by local campaigner Phil Page, the Highways Engineer responsible refused to even have a look at the site.
If that wasn’t bad enough this year their contractor has already been in even earlier and cut the lot at the start of June before the orchids have even had a chance to flower, let alone set seed. Because of the cold spring, Early Purple Orchids (see picture) were the main victims of this year’s massacre as along with a splendid show of Cow Parsley, Red Campion and Greater Stitchwort.
While accepting the need to cut for safety reasons, this is totally over the top. There is a footpath on one side of the road which gives a line of sight plus the Staplehill Road junction triangle only needs a metre cut round the edges while an even larger area of grassland at the South Knighton junction (opposite The Welcome Stranger) could be given much greater leeway. Amazingly they still managed to miss some bits suggesting that the operator was aware of the presence of the orchids!
But it’s not just Devon County Highways who are massacring our wonderful Devon verges!
The Woodland Trust are runners-up in this years ‘Butchers of the Verges’ award. The verge and car park at Pullabrook Wood near Lustleigh was resplendent with Bluebells, Red Campion & Stitchwort plus associated insects and ground nesting birds until the mowers moved in.
The causes of both these events are probably contracts which are insufficiently rigorous in specifying when cutting should take place. Ideally this should be much later in the summer (mid-August onwards), but certainly not in June when the verges are at their best. In the case of orchid-rich verges the cuttings should also be collected up, but unless a verge is given special recognition this is unlikely to happen.
For further information please contact Phil Page on 0785 8421 148
For more on the Road Verges campaign go to www.plantlife.org.uk/campaigns/road_verge_campaign/