How we manage grass verges

We manage the majority of highways, as part of a service carried out on behalf of and paid for by Oxfordshire County Council. Grass verges in the city are mown by ODS on behalf of the Council.

Over the past few years, we have been trialing different approaches to grass verge cutting in a handful of ‘no mow’ pilot areas in Oxford to support biodiversity. 

In 2023, Oxfordshire County Council introduced a new verge maintenance policy, with a single cut each year. We also implemented this approach across all of Oxford’s verges, with the cut taking place in late summer.

This year (2024), following significant feedback from residents, and budget decisions announced by both councils, we are updating our approach and will be cutting highway grass verges twice a year during the summer and autumn. This will allow wildflowers to complete their full lifecycle, which typically takes six to eight weeks.

The exception to this will be the eight Oxford roads that formed part of the Council’s original 'no mow' pilot where this has been found to have increased biodiversity. In these areas the grass cuttings are collected to further help boost biodiversity and encourage a greater variety of wildflowers to establish. 

Roadside grass verge cutting schedule

Location 

Frequency of cutting 

Roadside grass verges 

Twice a year (June and September)

8 ‘no mow’ pilot verges:  

Marston Road, Sunderland Avenue, Headley Way (Oxford Road Bypass) / Eastern bypass, the Roundway, Bayswater Road, Abingdon Road, Abberbury roundabout, Grenoble Road (larger verge section/ narrow verge section to be mowed to allow access) 

Once a year in September – with grass cuttings collected 

Communal gardens (Council housing) 

Twice a month 

Parks and green spaces 

Every six weeks 

Sports pitches in parks 

Cut regularly to maintain short grass August to May, and cut every six weeks during the football off-season 

Cemeteries Twice a month

Parish council areas 

Varies by parish 

Roadside grass verges 

Where roadside verges are cut twice a year, this will be during the summer and autumn. This will allow wildflowers to complete their full lifecycle, which typically takes six to eight weeks.   

The Council will continue to mow grass verges near junctions where visibility is required all year round. Residents can report their concerns about grass verges impacting visibility, on FixMyStreet

Communal gardens in Council properties 

Communal gardens around Council flats and homes will continue to be maintained, with mowing scheduled twice a month from April to October. 

Parks, green spaces, and sports pitches in parks 

Grass in parks and green spaces will be cut every six weeks.  

Football and playing pitches in parks are maintained as short grass for sports matches during the football season from August until the end of May. 

The off-season during the summer allows time for the grass to recover and regrow and to ensure the grass quality is restored and ready for the next season. At this point the pitches become part of the wider parks, and will be cut every six weeks until the beginning of the new football season when pitches are prepared to come back into play. 

Parish councils 

Parish councils are responsible for grass cutting in all localised areas, including sports facilities, village greens and some highway verges.  

Many areas follow the same approach as the wider district, however, individual grass verge cutting approaches are ultimately the decision of the parish. Parish councils may elect to pay for further additional cuts of verges if they wish to.  

Signage for our grass verge management work

Supporting biodiversity

Verges that are cut regularly are often perceived as neater, however they do not create the best environment for plants and wildlife to thrive.  Allowing verges to grow means that wildflowers can flower and set seed.  This provides greater food sources for pollinators, such as bees, and enables the wildflower populations to flourish.

According to the Wildlife Trusts, around 700 species of wildflower grow on road verges – nearly 45% of the UK’s total plant population. More information on best practice for grass verge management can be found on the Wildlife Trusts website.

As we work to tackle the climate and ecological emergency in Oxford, this approach to grass verge management will allow us to support biodiversity across the city.

History of the long grass verges in Oxford

The long grass verges programme arose from the Council’s 2020 Oxford Biodiversity Action Plan which set out work that is already done to support biodiversity in our green spaces in recent years and identified a wide range of further habitat improvement projects and environmental initiatives.

The review recommended changing the way some grass verges in the city are managed to increase their potential to support biodiversity, including creating wildflower areas.

Read more about the grass verge trials.

Get involved

If you have a lawn area or garden, you can help support biodiversity within your garden by choosing to not to mow some or all of your green space. Just sit back and watch the flowers grow. 

Climate Action Oxfordshire has more information, and resources, including a poster that you can download, print out, and plant in your garden, or put in your window. There are three options to choose from - two to print and colour yourself, and one that's already coloured for you.

The webpage also includes helpful advice on how to make your sign weatherproof and frequently asked questions.


Frequently Asked Questions

We know that people have questions about what an annual grass cut will mean for grass verges across the city. We have answered some of the most common questions here:

When will grass verges be mown?

Unless stated otherwise, grass verges will be mown twice a year in summer and autumn.

Will wildflowers be present straightway?

The number of wildflowers may be few at first but should increase over time as the grass becomes less dominant. The establishment of wildflowers takes time and management – often over more than one growing season - therefore it will take a while for the extent of Oxford’s native species to be revealed.

Wildflowers across Britain each have their own regional character and identity, your soil type will determine which flowers will grow.

In earlier trials, we have seen Pyramidal Orchids at Harbord Road, Abberbury Road, The Roundhay and Abingdon Road appear on grass verges. We are looking forward to seeing what appears over the next few seasons.

Are you planting wildflowers on the grass verges?

This initiative aims to encourage Oxford’s native wildflowers and other flora to grow naturally - supporting plants that are appropriate to Oxford’s geology and soil.

We are not planning on planting wildflowers on the grass verges at this stage.

Wildflower mixes often contain non-native species and may only attract certain pollinators. We must respect the natural balance of biodiversity within our city.

However, once we have a greater understanding of the types of plants and flowers that are growing on verges, we will explore whether it is necessary to plant any complementary species.   

How can I report litter on verges?

If you see any litter on grass verges, you can report litter to us

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