National Highways is spending more than £2m to bring wildflowers to the verges of a stretch of the A303, as well as restoring a section of a nearby river.
The government-owned company is spending £1.5m from its Environment and Wellbeing designated fund towards creating and restoring 8.45 hectares of species rich grasslands along the roadsides of the road between Amesbury and Andover.
Preparatory work has started on the scheme, which includes a section of the Salisbury Plain Site of Special Scientific Interest. A first phase of clearance and felling work is due to be completed this month, with planting of native species of wildflowers starting in the spring.
Supporting the National Pollinators’ Strategy and National Highways’ target of no net loss of biodiversity by 2025, the aim is to create an ecological buffer and a network of species rich habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
Environmental advisor Ben Hewlett said: ‘The increase in wildflowers will not only have wider biodiversity benefits and provide some impressive visual displays, but it will reduce long-term maintenance costs and reduce our carbon footprint through fewer maintenance visits.'
The Countess River Restoration Project. Picture credit: Wessex Rivers Trust
The company is also funding a £500,000 Wessex Rivers Trust scheme to enhance the River Avon between Durrington and Lord’s Walk in Amesbury, just below the A303 Countess Roundabout.
The river restoration project aims to enhance the quality of the unique chalk stream habitats and wildlife associated with the Avon, benefiting species such as Atlantic salmon, water voles and otters.
When the bridges were installed over Countess Roundabout in the 1960s, the banks and bed of the Avon were dredged and cleared, resulting in major damage to the natural chalk stream habitat.
The project aims to restore habitat features and natural processes associated with a healthy river, benefiting biodiversity in the channel and adjacent meadows.
Following design work, the first phase of the scheme has now been completed in the river section upstream of the A303, with further work scheduled to take place next year.
The initial work involved the installation of gravels to reinstate the dredged riverbed, and the installation of woody material to optimise the cross-sectional carrying capacity of the river channel and to promote hydraulic activity within the river.
Matt Irvine, Wessex Rivers Trust’s senior project officer, said: ‘The project will help facilitate an improvement in the ecological condition of this stretch of the River Avon, benefiting many of our iconic species and opening up many miles of spawning opportunities for our fish species.’
The November issue of Highways magazine includes a feature on National Highways' management of its soft estate and its work to increase biodiversity.