LATE NEWS: Some recent work by someone has cleared back the detritus restricting the road width. Hooray and well done!
During the course of a week scores if not hundreds of people, mostly local residents, walk from the village of Lyng to the bridge over the Wensum.
Many go way beyond. Up Sparham Hill for a mile to catch a bus. A few hundred metres to walk round Sparham Pool. Some to fish, some to just enjoy, some are twitchers, some are dog walkers. Large groups may be ramblers, drawn by the wonderful River Wensum and the new Wensum Way trail.
They all have one thing in common - a high risk of being hit by a car.
For there is no foopath along this section. The Causeway to the bridge is nominally wide enough for two cars but not two cars and a pedestrian. And certainly not anything bigger than a car. Since this is a farrming area the number of Very Large and Heavy Goods vehicles is unusually high.
There is a 30 mph speed limit but it is too often ignored and worse. Some cars will approach from the west at nearer 50; some even from the village have already reached 40plus. They make no concession to pedestrians, despite the Highway Code which makes it unlawful NOT to give pedestrians right of way in such circumstances. The words are "reasonable consideration" but they are ignored.
I am not alone in having been touched by a car forcing its way past me, my dog and a vehicle coming the opposite way. No harm done except to my confidence.
Back before the road bridge replaced the ford - around the 30s it seems - there was a footbridge here. And close by is the old weir bridge that served the long-gone Lyng Paper Mill. But nthat was when traffic was light, smaller and slower. Now there is no facility of any sort for pedestrians. Despite that, this forms part of the Norfolk County Wensum Way ramblers trail.
Norfolk County has said will do something but has no money. The "something" is not much although it includes the levelling of a footpath as shown below and which would be welcomed.
It does not include the more critical provision of a pedestrian refuge marked out along the Causeway itself and the essential warning signs for motorists at eitrher end.
I personally would like to see a chicane and 20 mph limit here but there is little room for traffic to queue (as if there was that much generally) and make the chicane effective.
Our road verges are part of the road we use. This article in Hill and Vale suggests a conflict in what makes them important....
Road verges are one of the most important, best loved and frequently viewed habitats in the country... So why are they still being destroyed?
A new Plantlife study shows that Britain’s road verges are home to 703 species of wild plants, more than in any other part of our landscape, and 87 of them are either threatened with extinction or heading that way. In addition, 88% of these wild plants provide nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, making road verges essential refuges for insect life; bird’s-foot trefoil alone is a food plant for 132 species of insect.
In addition, 21 of the 25 Nation’s Favourite Wildflowers grow on road verges. From cowslips and bluebells in spring to swathes of cow parsley and ox-eye daisies in early summer, our verges are home to most of the 25 favourite wild flowers as voted for by the public. And with 30 million drivers in the UK, they’re the most frequently viewed habitat too, providing many people with their only regular daily contact with nature.
But in much of Britain road verges are still being needlessly cut down in full flower threatening the wildflowers and the wildlife that depend on them. Many councils have already started cutting verges - much too early in the year for flowers to be able set seed, and greatly reducing one of the most important food banks for our ailing bees and other pollinators.
Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist, explains, “Over 97% of meadows have been destroyed in England since the 1930s. In many areas, rural road verges are the last remaining stretches of natural habitat for our wildlife. Road safety is the absolute priority, but we know that verges can be managed better for wildlife whilst remaining safe for motorists. This means adopting some simple changes to management - like a delay in cutting to allow seed to be set - so that wildflowers can thrive”.
Plantlife has produced new management guidelines and is urging the public to sign a petition asking local councils to adopt them. Some councils are leading the way. Trials in Dorset, for example, are investigating how to combat the over-vigorous growth of grass on fertile verges (which is both detrimental to wildflowers and obscures driver sight-lines), by stripping turf, using semi-parasitic yellow rattle to stunt grass growth and even grazing verges with sheep. Plantlife is helping to showcase the work of councils like Dorset to show others that it can be done. Our guidelines are being currently being applied to 11,700 km of verge covering 2,300 hectares of verges — that’s equivalent to 2.5 times the area of remaining upland hay meadow in the UK - and with the public’s support we can do even more.
Dr Dines adds, “If we just give them a chance, wildflowers can return. Meadow crane’s-bill was once widespread in meadows — hence its name — but is now more commonly found on road verges. It spreads readily when cutting is delayed and it’s allowed to set seed. Maybe it’s time to change its name to “verge crane’s-bill”.
For more information and for stunning images, please contact: Katie Cameron T 01722 342759 / M 07584 995929 / E katie.cameron@plantIife.org.uk
Trevor Dines Plantlife Botanical Specialist TO 1248 670691 / M 07789 685635 E trevor. dinesiip1antlife.org.uk