Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

Protected Road Verge Scheme

Upton Scudamore road vergte volunteers, Jane Cole/ WSBRC

Roadside verges strewn with wild flowers, on chalk downland and limestone grassland, are one of the distinctive aspects of the Wiltshire countryside. Under a scheme begun in 1970, around fifty road verges throughout the county are designated as Protected Road Verges because of their special habitat, species or ecological interest. Read more about the project by downloading the leaflet.

Typical species-rich communities found on the chalk and limestone verges support Pyramidal and Bee orchids, Field Scabious, Rock-rose and Fairy Flax. These verges also support rich invertebrate communities including Glow-worms and many species of butterflies. 

Verges on clay soils support a varied neutral meadow flora including species such as Adder’s-tongue fern, Nettle-leaved Bellflower and Bath Asparagus. Ancient woodland verges in the Cotswolds in particular support a spectacular ground flora in the spring including species such as Solomon’s Seal and Fly Orchid. A verge near Chittoe supports the only Tower Mustard in the county, continually recorded there since 1670!

Unfortunately sandwiched between modern agricultural practices and heavy traffic, road verges are under threat of damage caused by vehicles parking on verges, pollution from vehicle emissions and salt spray, inappropriate planting, fly tipping and herbicide drift from adjacent farmland.

Verges given protected status are carefully selected and have to meet rigorous criteria. They are marked with posts at either end. Each verge has an individual management plan designed to protect and enhance its flora and fauna. Wiltshire Council, their contractor Atkins and WSBRC work in partnership to protect and care for protected road verges.

Each verge has a volunteer who checks on the condition of the verge and records the wildlife found there; each year these records are sent to WSBRC and Wiltshire Council to ensure the wildlife interest is maintained. Sites presently available to be monitored are:

  • Fonthill x3 nr. Hindon south Wilts (Hellebores, Dusky cranesbill and orchids)
  • Ansty Down off A30 nr Tisbury (chalk downland flora)
  • Conholt east Wilts nr Shalbourne (downland flora)
  • Ferne Hollow south west Wilts (chalk grassland and some woodland)
  • Pepperbox Hill A36 south of Salisbury (chalk downland SSSI and juniper)
  • South of Tilshead A360 Salisbury Plain (chalk downland)

If you're interested in getting involved fill in the form below or contact Emma Glover at Wiltshire Council directly (emma.glover@wiltshire.gov.uk T: 01225 718478).