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How we manage road verges on our trunk roads and motorways.

First published:
1 November 2021
Last updated:

We work with our Trunk Road Agents to look after the our trunk road and motorway network. Other roads are looked after by local authorities.

What are road verges

These are the areas of land by the roadside which usually include:

  • grassland
  • trees
  • drains
  • other features such as tunnels and green bridges

The verges of our road network cover around 3,100 hectares.

Why we manage road verges

It’s important that we keep the road safe for users.

We want to improve spaces for nature along road verges.

Road verges and surrounding areas provide habitats for animals, insects, plants and trees.

When we maintain roads we try to make them safe for animals and plants. This is because plants and animals help us to:

  • manage carbon emissions (which causes global warming)
  • pollinate our crops for food
  • allow native species to thrive
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A road verge in south Wales

Why road verges are important

Road verges:

  • provide visibility and a safe place for road users
  • prevent road flooding
  • prevent water-based pollution being released into the environment
  • help the road fit into the surrounding countryside or townscape
  • screen the road or traffic from residential areas or sensitive landscapes
  • provide a varied and interesting landscape for road users
  • provide habitats for wildlife
  • preserve historic features such as milestones and waymarkers
  • provide space for highway equipment
  • carry utility cables or pipelines

How we manage road verges

To look after the verges, we:

  • cut vegetation (like grass) in spring and summer so that road users can see better and have a safe space away from the road
  • inspect and manage trees and shrubs to make sure they won’t fall down and hurt anyone
  • inspect and maintain fences
  • maintain drains and water storage areas
  • remove invasive weeds in autumn and winter to stop them spreading and harming other species of wildlife and causing damage to our roads. See Harmful (injurious) weeds and invasive non-native species
  • remove vegetation to maintain landscape views
  • remove and replant trees and shrubs in autumn and winter so that they fit well with the landscape
  • remove vegetation to manage certain plant pests and diseases
  • manage vegetation to improve wildlife habitats; or protect historic features

Wildlife on road verges

We make space for nature and wildlife when we build and maintain roads. This includes:

  • planting trees, shrubs, bulbs and sowing wildflower seed 
  • cutting grass verges for road safety, or to encourage wildflowers to grow. Wildflowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  • managing trees (maintenance, felling and replanting)

Road verges provide a great habitat for wildlife because they aren’t usually disturbed by people. Some verges are also home to rare and species-rich habitat.

We monitor the land we own all year round to find areas that are important for wildlife.

They can be home to:

  • flower-rich grassland, which supports a range of native wild flowers, like the oxeye daisy
  • other types of grassland like the less common Purple Moor-grass and rush pasture 
  • rock and scree faces: good for lichens and mosses
  • woodland, native trees and shrub provide food, nesting/roosting sites and shelter for birds, bats and dormice
  • heathland: used by a range of birds, reptiles (e.g. adders) and invertebrates
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A bee pollinating a wildflower

Species that can be found on our road verges include:

  • mammals: such as bats, dormice, otters and water voles
  • amphibians (newts, toads and frogs) and reptiles  (lizards, slow worms and adders)
  • birds: such as buzzards and barn owls
  • plants: such as bluebells, wood bitter vetch, Deptford pinks and orchids (like bee orchids)
  • insects: including the marsh fritillary butterfly and the Welsh clear-wing moth

Ash dieback disease

Ash trees are a common sight along our road verges in Wales.

Around 90% of UK ash trees are affected or killed by the disease.

Read more about tree and plant health and our Woodlands for Wales strategy.

Why ash trees matter

Some other species depend on ash trees to live.

They’re very useful for supporting biodiversity, because:

  • their leaves hold more nutrients than some other trees
  • they provide spaces for birds and small mammals (like woodpeckers and bats) to live in
  • their branches allow more light to reach the soil below so new flowers, fungi and plants can get more sunshine

If a tree has ash dieback disease it will eventually die without nutrients or water. We manage this because:

  • the species of insects, animals, and plants that rely on the ash tree for food or habitat will find it harder to survive
  • large dead trees can suddenly fall especially during storms, which is a danger for people who may be walking, cycling, or driving near them
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An ash tree with ash dieback disease

What we’re doing about ash dieback

To protect the people and wildlife on and around our roads, it’s important that we:

  • stop ash trees from falling
  • make sure that small mammals and insects have food and habitats to survive without lost ash trees

This is why we’re working with our Trunk Road Agents SWTRA and NMWTRA to:

  • carry out surveys each summer to see which trees might be affected
  • carefully fell ash trees with ash dieback disease
  • plant native trees that aren’t affected by ash dieback disease

Our partners include:

Further information

To find out if there is maintenance work happening in your area, visit Traffic Wales.