Increasing biodiversity in grass verges
The network of grass verges in Surrey stretches alongside 3,000 miles of rural and urban roads, providing a significant opportunity to increase plant and insect biodiversity through the way that these are managed.
In 2019, Surrey County Council committed to review and reduce the frequency of cutting highway verges across the county, wherever safe and desirable to do so. Further, in 2021-22 Surrey County Council adopted an additional initiative; committing to reducing frequency of cutting grassed areas on their managed sites.
Reducing the number of grass cuts each year can allow native plant species to thrive, and in some areas additional steps can be taken to prepare the ground, sow native wildflower seeds and more proactively encourage their growth.
Local residents and communities can play a key role in this effort by:
- Raising awareness locally of the benefits of reduced cuts.
- Planting blue hearts in grass verges, following the steps detailed below.
- Raking and removing grass cuttings after the annual cut, where safe to do so.
- Removing any litter that collects in the longer grass, again where safe to do so.
- Rewilding areas of their own gardens and other green spaces.
The Blue Campaign
We (Surrey County Council) support the Blue Campaign, in which residents are encouraged to:
- Identify suitable grass verges near where they live.
- Gain local resident support to rewild this area (especially people whose properties are directly in front of the proposed verge).
- Contact us to ensure this verge is suitable for being left uncut
- Select 'Planting a blue heart on the verge' as the form option
- Pinpoint the specific verge or green area on the map
- Use the text box within the form to add any specific comments and let us know if you have gained local community support
- Make or purchase a blue heart to plant in the verge.
We will review the proposed location based on factors such as verge width, footway width, sightlines and on-street parking. Where a road is used by cyclists or where there is no footway so the verge is being used by pedestrians, a 1m width strip would need to be cut alongside the carriageway.
If approved, staff will record the Blue Heart location and notify the district or borough Council or relevant contractor. The grass-cutting team who manages this verge will then bypass this area on their route, or if a partial cut is needed for safety or access reasons, they will cut the sightlines, or may reduce the cut to only a 1m strip along the road or pavement. All verges, including Blue Heart locations, will have one full-width cut each Autumn.
Pages 45-47 of Surrey's New Tree Strategy (PDF) provide more detail on the steps above, and on our existing approach in collaboration with district and borough councils.
For more local information and support for residents on rewilding and wild flowering, please contact Surrey's Wildflowering Project.
Files available to download
Surrey's new tree strategy 2020 (PDF)
Surrey’s New Tree Strategy sets out how the Council will meet its target to facilitate the planting of 1.2 million new trees by 2030.