Wexford puts wild flowers back on the roadside

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Paddy Woodworth, The Irish Times

A friend who now lives in Los Angeles fondly remembers early summer in Ireland as the time "when the roadsides look as if they have been draped in lace".

She is thinking of the delicate white umbels of cow parsley that carpet the margins of country roads in May and June, and the hawthorn that washes the hedgerows above them in a creamy mist.

Sadly, on her return visits her memories often clash with the more common reality today: bare verges mowed like billiard tables, hedgerows not pruned but ripped, torn and battered by crude machine cutting.

This happens again and again, all over the country, and right in the middle of the season for wild flowers and nesting birds. And it happens despite increasing recognition of the environmental and economic values of robust hedgerows and verges.

They provide vital corridors for wildlife between our fragmented woodlands and are home to many species in their own right, ranging from great trees to small flowers, from mammals to microfauna in the soil. They also provide "ecosystem services", such as buffering against flooding.

Farmers are constrained by law from cutting their hedgerows between March 1st and August 31st under the 1976 Wildlife Act, but zealous county councils and road authorities persist in giving our roadsides a permanent short back and sides.


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