Buzzing flower power!

18th June 2019

This summer Bury Down is looking more colourful than previous years. There are blocks of flowers in the verges, including kidney vetch, ox-eye daisy and mignonette. Bees and other insects are visiting these flowers to enjoy their nectar.

These flower-rich blocks mark experimental plots set up last year by Chris Woodham, a PhD student from Oxford University. Chris is carrying out research into how linear routes open to the public can be managed for biodiversity. There are numerous plots in the verges and they are being managed differently to test different management scenarios. The most flower-rich plots are those where the grass and top layer of soil was removed and then sown with wildflower seeds.

Other plots were not sown with seeds but there is a greater diversity and increased number of flowering plants compared to the verge areas outside the experimental plots. Whilst it is early days, the research is suggesting that cutting and removing grass at Bury Down boosts biodiversity.

It is important that the plots are not disturbed and we hope the public (and their dogs) will not trample the plants or enter the plots. The plots are set back into the wide verges away from the wide, worn track so it is unlikely the public will disturb the experiment.

Over the next 2 years, Chris will be liaising with local farmers and landowners to explore how his findings could be applied in the wider landscape. This summer’s flowers have inspired The Ridgeway Partnership to look into how the Trail’s verges could be managed to create a buzzing, flower-rich strip extending along the length of the Trail like a colourful ribbon through the landscape.

Updates about the Oxford University research are detailed in the Ridgeway newsletter and regularly posted on Twitter under the hashtag #ConnectedRidgeway. Please contact the Ridgeway Officer or Chris Woodham if you would like to volunteer to help manage or survey the plots, donate money towards managing The Ridgeway’s verges or own/farm land along The Ridgeway.

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Chris and Professor Turnbull at Bury Down June 2019
Flower-rich experimental plot at Bury Down June 2019