On verges and trying to find balance

Historically ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ verge cutting has been the responsibility of Oxfordshire County Council (OCC), but in 2016 many town and parish councils agreed to take this job on. Cholsey Parish Council was one of them and we receive a fixed amount from OCC each year towards this.

In recent years the verges have been cut by a commercial mowing contractor once a year – in late June or early July. When considering verge cutting, we need to bear in mind:

  • Keeping people safe*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Staying in budget (direct costs and staff time)*
  • Availability of contractors to do the work*

This year, however, we know we have not got this balance right. It was a very wet, warm Spring and there has been a huge amount of growth. We had our contractor booked for early July as usual, but we know certain footpaths have been increasingly hard to pass, and we are sorry that we have not had the resources to tackle this. We have had to wait for our scheduled cut and we hope that the weather will allow this soon.

With the aim of balancing the needs of people and nature, we are reviewing this area and will produce a new verge management plan ready for 2025.

The Parish Councillors and office team are all residents of the village – please know that we are always trying to do our best to juggle lots of different considerations for many services within the council’s budget (which mostly comes from a small portion – approx. 5% – of your council tax). Please visit our website or get in touch to find out more. If you’d like to get more involved, there are often vacancies to join us as a Parish Councillor too.


*A little more background on each of these:

– In response to new laws requiring councils to act to conserve and enhance biodiversity, the County Council has a verge management policy requiring roadside verges to be cut once a year.  We have lost 97% of wildflower meadows since the 1930s, and it is vital to our ecosystem that we reverse a major decline in insect life. Ecologists are currently noting a further worrying fall in pollinator activity this year. When we look around our area we see many green fields of crops, growing our food, but sadly this kind of green does not support a variety of insect life.

– Parish councils are therefore urged to only cut verges once a year unless safety requires otherwise. This is where we have not managed to strike the right balance this year, due to this season’s plant growth. Our maintenance person has been able to strim back smaller areas causing safety concern, but cutting back the lengths of Wallingford and Reading Roads is too large a job, which is why we have a contractor to do this.

– Managing finite budgets and finding contractors are challenges that we share with many local councils in our area. Verge cutting plans/contracts are among many things that our small team is managing, and the budget we have to work with does not allow a bespoke approach. We know that last year when our contractor carried out the annual cut, residents were upset that orchids and ox-eye daisies were lost. Again, finding a balance is our challenge here and we will review this for 2025.