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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Verging on perfection: ‘Road verges don’t come better than this’ says expert

This stunning West Sussex road verge, with its flourishing flora and fauna, has received a rave report from consultant ecologist and butterfly expert Neil Hulme.

Neil, who works closely with the County Council, South Downs National Park Authority and many landowners to help improve habitats for the benefit of butterflies and a wealth of other wildlife, said of his summer research: “Road verges don't come better than this. It was like walking across a mini nature reserve, which is what many verges have the potential to be, forming vital ‘green corridors’ across the landscape.

“The results of my butterfly surveys here are spectacular, as is the flora, which includes beauties such as the Bee Orchid. My count of 424 butterflies included 20 species, the highlights being 107 Small Blue, which is quite rare and very localised in distribution, 222 Common Blue and 21 Brown Argus. Mating pairs of these three species were seen and many other females were observed laying eggs on plants which would be removed if cut too early in the year.”

Neil went on to explain: “Butterflies are highly sensitive indicators of habitat health. Where they occur in high numbers and diversity, it means that many other aspects of our fauna and flora will be flourishing.”

The verge, off the A280 near Worthing, is now destined to be designated the 85th Notable Road Verge (NRV) in West Sussex. Please note: there is no safe parking nearby and part of the reason for the flourishing flora and fauna is the lack of footfall, so people are urged to please keep to the public footpaths if visiting this soon-to-be NRV, or any of the existing ones.

Joy Dennis, County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We are very fortunate to have glorious road verges such as this in the county and this shows, in stunning fashion, how our rural cutting regime can produce this kind of display in places, where road safety allows.”

Deborah Urquhart, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “I couldn’t agree more with Neil’s comments – his pictures are stunning. Some of our roadside verges are home to a number of scarce insect and plant species, provide spectacular wildflower displays and are testament to our commitment to the Pollinator Action Plan.”

Neil was equally enthusiastic about the condition of the NRV at Kithurst Hill, near Storrington, which forms part of a larger site managed by the South Downs National Park Authority: “This must be the only road verge in the UK where you can see both the very rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly and the iconic Round-headed Rampion flower, known as the Pride of Sussex.”

The existing 84 NRVs comprise 51km of verge - covering an area of 293 football pitches.

Each verge has a distinctive oak marker post installed so that they receive appropriate management.

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