Mark regularly despairs at the state of our rural roadsides, expostulating at the cavalier use of herbicides and the ugliness of sprayed areas which then create a blank canvas for weeds to colonise quickly. “How,” he asks, “can we pretend to be clean and green in our country when people see these road verges?”
This particular example is from down the road, more or less. We suspect it is the farmer trying to eradicate bristle grass but in fact bristle grass got established in the first place here because it is an early coloniser on sprayed areas. Alas our councils regularly get in on the act, too. In days gone by, rural roads used to have wide gravel shoulders which were graded from time to time. Now the maintenance regime is such that the road edges have been recontoured to slope sharply downwards at the side – the idea being that this moves the water off the road quickly but it also means that cars can no longer move off the road safely. And it is all to be kept free of vegetation, which is done by spraying.
We designated our road verges no-spray zones – which can be done by ringing the local council. We would rather maintain our own property frontages which we plant extensively and mow. It stops any contractors swooshing around with herbicides. The year they sprayed all our belladonna lilies was too much for us. It is not that we are opposed to sprays in principle. But Mark uses herbicide spraying to target spot weeds and generally it can be achieved in an unobtrusive, near invisible way.
The scorched earth approach to dealing with rural road verges needs to be revisited. It is bad environmental practice and it looks downright ugly – not a good advertisement at all for our country.