Managing verges for nature would create combined area the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh for wildflowers.
In a report outlining the scale of road verges in England, Scotland and Wales, researchers from the University of Exeter used Google Earth and Google Street View to estimate that verges account for about 1,000 sq miles (2,579 sq km) of the UK’s land.
The report states this type of land, defined as the strip of land between the roadside and the fence, presents “significant opportunities” to improve verges as “multifunctional green spaces” in urban areas and densely populated regions, where land scarcity is an issue.
Ben Phillips, lead author into the report from University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, said: “Our key message is that there’s a lot of road verge in Great Britain and we could manage it much better for nature. About a quarter of our road verges are mown very regularly to make them look like garden lawns - this is bad for wildlife.”
Phillips said while some verges needed to be mowed “regularly for safety”, many could be mown less frequently, which would save local council’s money.
Together with Highways England's commitment to ensure all new roads will have wildflower meadows flanking them, this would be very good news for pollinators and wildlife generally.