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Herts County Council to trial bee-boosting wildflower verges

A blooming lovely boost for bees has been proposed by Hertfordshire County Council.

The highways authority is to test a new approach to grass-cutting alongside roads, allowing verges identified using wildlife and ecology data to become home to a host of wildflowers and the pollinators that feed on them.

Around 70 sites in rural areas will be cut in a different way to encourage the growth of native species.

The wildflower patch at the Link Road entrance to Castle Park (23367352)
The wildflower patch at the Link Road entrance to Castle Park (23367352)

The verges will be mowed once a year, between mid-July and mid-August, and the grass cuttings removed. This will allow for the growth, flowering and seeding of wildflowers, as well as preventing them from being dominated by more aggressive plant species to provide an ideal habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.

Mark Kemp, HCC's director of environment and infrastructure, said: "Everyone's heard about the sharp decline in bees and pollinating insects over recent decades and, like most people, we're alarmed by this.

"We're determined to protect and improve Hertfordshire's natural environment and this fairly simple change to how we cut roadside grass will help increase the habitats and food that our pollinating insects rely on."

The new approach to grass-cutting will start in 2020, although it will take at least two years before the first wildflowers appear. The council is warning that verges may appear overgrown or unmaintained in the first year, but this a natural part of the new habitat establishing itself.

This new approach will contribute to the Sustainable Hertfordshire strategy, the county council's programme to improve sustainability in the county.

For safety reasons, verges in urban areas and around rural junctions and bends will continue to be cut in the same way as before. Each year, the authority trims approximately 6.5 million square metres (70m sq ft).

The new approach will be discussed by the county council's cabinet later this month before being formally approved.

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