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The Sion Road project

The Sion Road project started as a call by Cllr Yemi Adenuga to improve the area along the road that links Athlumney and Johnstown with the town centre. Wild About Navan were invited to join the project to give advice from a biodiversity viewpoint. This project is in partnership with Johnstown TidyTowns, Wild About Navan and Cllr Yemi Adenuga and is supported by AXA Parks grant.

The four main project aims are to:

  1. Promote a relationship with nature that builds greater awareness of and connection to local urban biodiversity and the Boyne Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protected Area (SPA).

  2. Engage and educate local community and schools in biodiversity topics;

  3. Advocate for more sustainable landscape management for biodiversity;

  4. Support local biodiversity via sustainable verge management.

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Why should we enhance our road verges?

  • Simple way to reduce “Nature-deficit” (limited exposure to green spaces) in towns: Urban green areas increase positive behaviours, physical activity, social engagement, and belonging.

  • Balance out predominantly car-centric areas. Aim to inspire people to get outdoors and support active travel (walking/cycling).

  • Connect locals and visitors to hedgerows and rivers e.g. Boyne Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protected Area (SPA).

  • Promote a new relationship with nature that doesn't degrade/exploit it - more awareness of and connection to local urban biodiversity. 

  • Roadside verges can act as wildlife corridors. Diverse habitats (short meadow, long meadow, scrub, trees) = more biodiversity.

 

The ecology of road verges

Before proposing any works on road verges such as our pilot project along Sion Road in Navan, we need to know what’s there. For this project, we commissioned ecologists from BEC Consultants to carry out a species and habitat survey of these road verges in 2022 and also invited Dr. Robbie Meehan to conduct a geological survey of the area. 

Road verges are often forgotten and seen as waste ground. Where people see messy shrubs and long untidy grasses, Wild About Navan see potential: a valuable green corridor and safe haven for local wildlife. Natural (not planted) wildflowers on road verges are known to be a particularly important food source for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Verges can also provide places for them to nest and hibernate.

But even we were surprised by the findings of the ecological survey:

An impressive total of fifty plant species were recorded at the site along Sion Road in Navan!

Though species biodiversity is just one aspect of biodiversity, we take this as a very good starting point. Biodiversity is maximised when there are a variety of different habitats for plants to grow and for insects, birds and mammals to feed, shelter and nest. Based on the Sion Road report and best practise guidelines, we propose protecting and enhancing the existing areas of grassland, shrub, hedgerow and trees along the road verges here to support and grow the number of different species the area is able to support.

Our road networks have many detrimental ecological impacts, but the good news is that the habitats of road verges form a parallel network that might help mitigate these impacts and provide additional benefits (“ecosystem services”) such as biodiversity provision, regulating services (e.g. air and water filtration), and cultural services (e.g. health and aesthetic benefits by providing access to nature). Simple changes to the maintenance of road verges would address the demand for ecosystem services in urban/agricultural landscapes and offer a significant opportunity to mitigate negative ecological effects of our road network.

We believe road verges all over Navan and Meath should be managed for ecosystem services and local wildlife by, for example, reducing mowing frequencies and planting native trees in large verges.

We have shared the survey findings with Meath County Council and hope to continue work to support the urban biodiversity of this road verge in 2023.

Best practice grassland verge guidance 

Link to article: Ecosystem service provision by road verges (Phillips et al. 2020) 

This project is kindly supported by the AXA Parks grant.

 

Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals 

#3 #11 #13 #15 #17

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Our Outdoor Living Heritage Museum:
Celebrating Navan's geological, natural and living heritage. 

Join Dr. Robbie Meehan, Geologist, in our 3-part series, to learn how our geological and natural landscape has changed in Navan across the ages, what the glaciers left behind and how our geological heritage still observable to us today.

Our Outdoor Living Heritage Museum:
Living Heritage makes use of our built heritage.

Not much of our medieval walls remain today, but thanks to Navan's industrial heritage, there are still plenty of walls and bridges around. Learn more about how our living heritage makes use of that built heritage with Dr. Annina Niskanen.

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