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Grass cutting and roadside verges

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Roadside verge

The county council cuts roadside grass to ensure that people can use the roads safely, whilst taking into account environmental and conservation considerations.

We do not cut grass that is not on the highway, for example, grass which is privately owned or on land owned by bodies other than the county council, eg. parks and public open spaces. 

How, when and why?

Roadside verges are cut during the summer season. We cut a strip of verge roughly one metre wide down both sides of the road once during the year, in addition to visibility splays at road junctions. In addition, we take a full width cut of the verge every two or four years to prevent saplings and woody weeds from becoming established. The reasons for cutting the grass are:-

Safety 

The strip of short grass opens up visibility along the road, particularly at bends. In addition, cutting back at road junctions improves visibility for joining traffic.

The strip of shorter grass along the road edge provides a "step-off" for pedestrians when vehicles are passing them on narrow roads.

Preventative maintenance

By preventing the establishment of saplings and woody weeds, the structure of the road and associated drainage will not be damaged by roots.

Conservation

Cumbria has some of the most exceptional scenery in the UK, and the roadside verges play a part in this. 

The roadside verges form important links between areas of unimproved land enabling movement of wildlife.

Verges with short grass by the road edge, graduating to higher plants at the boundary provide food and shelter for a wide range of species.

Why are the verges cut at different times?

Each verge has been surveyed and classified according to the botanical content. The cutting times are based on these classifications, and are intended to allow the seeds to set. Some verges are cut early in the year and some later in July through to September.

  • Flower rich verges are generally cut later in the year. 
  • Other types may require an earlier cut 
  • Every four years a full width cut is made late in the year to prevent woody weeds and saplings from growing. This cut is mainly for scrub control to protect the fabric of the road, but it also protects the flower richness of the verge by removing those plants that would shade them out. On "special" verges, this happens every two years.
  • Over 600 "special" verges have their cuttings removed to reduce fertility and prevent a build-up of mat vegetation, and so encourage a greater diversity of wildflowers
  • The county council keeps the classifications of verges under review and will revise cutting times as necessary.
  • Contractors work from maps showing which verges to cut and when.                 

Cumbria Wildlife Trust volunteers monitor the condition of the verges and carry out botanical surveys.

Common ragwort is a plant that is dangerous to livestock which eats it, as it causes liver damage. All land managers are under a duty to control this plant if it grows on their land, as the parachute seeds can be carried on the wind for considerable distances and contaminate pastureland. The county council takes action to control this plant when informed of specific locations where it is growing. It is usual to pull or spray the plant to prevent it spreading.

Follow the link below to view our pamphlet "Roadside Verges in Cumbria" for more information about how we care for the roadside verges.

Roadside Verges in Cumbria (PDF 3.6mb)