History of Verges
By the end of the 18th century, the roads in England where in a very bad state , pot holes and thick mud abounded.
Then with the introduction of new road construction methods by Telford and Macadam, it became no longer necessary to dodge pot holes and as consequence roads could become narrower. This over hall of the national road structure started in the early 19th century and gradually spread though the whole country. The excess space between the new road and the boundary, usually a hedge, that was no longer needed for pot hole dodging manoeuvres, became disused and colonised by plants, thus creating the verges that we know today.
In current times the verges have become an important part of the road network, ie;
- providing added visability to drivers at bends and junctions
- as places to park in an emergency
- as areas where road repair equipment and materials can be stored temporally
- as places for drains and soak aways to remove surface water
- as a means of providing structural support to the road surface
- providing a visual link between the road and its surroundings
- separation of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders from the carriageways where larger vehicles travel
- acting as significant reservoirs of plants and animals – particularly in areas where hedges have been removed
- as wildlife corridors and a means of plants spreading from one area to another
The portion of the verge nearest the road edge is subject to constant disturbance ie;
Throwing up of mud and water in wet weather,
Pollution from salting and exhaust fumes
Further from the road the conditions are more stable and have a rich community of annual and perennial plants.
Verges: Sizes and Shapes:
The road network was only metalled from the early 19th Century onwards, the verges are comparatively younger than the hedges that standby them. In circa 1972 it was estimated that there were up to 0.415 ha of maintained land/km of road (1.65 acres/mile). Using the Department of Transport figures (1987) of 225,450km (140,100 miles) which would work out at approximately 93,560ha (231,190 acres) of managed land. To which we could then add a further 3645ha (9,000 acres) of banks, burns, tree plantations. This total of 97,200ha (240,000 acres) provides a vital and very large habitat area for plant and animal species.
The average verge width of areas of country is very difficult to work out due to the way that they vary from area to area and county to county as is evidenced below.
|County||Class of Road||Distance||Average Width of Verge|
|.||.||.||km . miles||cm . inches|
|A||Somerset||Trunk||188 . 117||188 . 75|
|.||.||A||655 . 407||130 . 52|
|.||.||B||473 . 294||123 . 49|
|.||.||C||2526 . 1569||108 . 43|
|.||.||Unclassified||3016 . 1873||98 . 49|
|B||Glamorgan||Trunk||98 . 61||98 . 39|
|.||.||A||1419 . 260||35 . 14|
|.||.||B||679 . 422||83 . 33|
|.||.||Unclassified||1014 . 630||60 . 24|
Width of verges by class of road in Somerset and Glamorgan. Class 1 roads a A category; Class 2 roads are B; Class 3 roads are Minor roads with 4.3m+ of metalling; Unclassified roads have < 4.3m metalling or untarred. Both counties are some what a typical in that the possess large numbers of low category roads with very narrow verges, however when you look at the average width of the trunk roads and A roads you will notice a massive difference. This difference may be partially explained by the fact that the roads in Glamorgan tend to pass through cuttings and valleys or are associated with industrial sites or residential areas. On verges that adjoin a hedgerow, than both these areas share a common number of herbaceous plants. Many of these plants provide food for a variety of birds, animals and insects, with the hedge providing shelter. However when the adjoining hedge is removed all that remains of this once virile source for the wildlife is the verge.