Hedgerows Including Ancient and Species Rich Hedgerows
The following wildlife guidance is provded on the Hedgelink Webiste
( see link button below for full details)
Wildlife and hedgerows
Hedgerows provide vital resources for mammals, birds, and insect species. As well as being an important habitat in their own right, they act as wildlife corridors allowing dispersal between isolated habitats.
Different features of a hedgerow will be important to different species. The more diverse in composition a hedgerow is the more species it is likely to support due to a diversity of flowering and fruiting times. In general, native hedge plants such asblackthorn Prunus spinosa, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna,hazel Corylus avellena, dogwood Cornus sanguinea and field maple Acer campestris will support many more species than non-native plants such as garden privet, Ligustrum ovalifolium, leylandii and sycamore Acer psedoplatanus. Older hedgerows often contain a large amount of dead wood and plant litter within the structure of the hedge and can provide a valuable habitat for many invertebrates (which in turn will attract predators such as bats, shrews and birds) and cover for small mammals.Hedge bases are an important feature and provide a buffer zone to protect root systems and which can be an important habitat in its own right.
Management practices are crucial to the maintenance of a healthy hedge beneficial to wildlife: hedge laying, where the layed stems die off as the new shoots grow provides a source of dead wood. Coppicing, where stems are cut just above the ground, can provide a new lease of life to seriously damaged hedgerows. The timing of management is important to get the best from a hedge and avoid disturbance to animals breeding or over-wintering. The cutting cycle will determine the availability of fruits and flowers in a hedge; typically a cycle of two to three years is most beneficial for wildlife.
Hedge cutting viewed as contributing to significant drop in local butterfly numbers. See article by Hugh Wright on our butterflies species page.
Good practice for hedgerow management
Source Natural England - see link button below
The wildlife and landscape value of hedgerows can be maintained and enhanced by good management.
- You should avoid trimming hedgerows between 1 March and 31 July (as required by the guidelines) – the main nesting season for birds. Exemptions apply if the hedgerow overhangs a public highway or public footpath, or if it obstructs the view of drivers.
- It is best to leave trimming until the end of winter, but where it is impossible to get on the field at this time, trimming can be brought forward to early winter.
- Ground cover at the hedge base should be retained over winter for ground-nesting birds.
- It should also be noted that over-management – or trimming a hedge too severely – can have a detrimental effect on conservation. In general, taller, bushier hedgerows provide more wildlife potential than smaller, thinner hedges.
- If conditions are such that you need to trim hedges when berries are still present, only the hedge sides should be trimmed, as this will leave some fruit.
- You should pay particular attention to the need to avoid spray and fertiliser drift into hedges, hedge verges and hedge bottoms.
- Livestock should be fenced away from hedgerows, and a strip of uncultivated or ungrazed land maintained between the hedge and the adjacent crop.
Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and BRERC ( record centre ) advise that hedges should be cut in an egg shape profile to help wildlife and aviod stringent cutting leaving prominent thick branches where magpies can land to raid nests located in the hedge.
Ideally the hedge should include an uneven profile in length with higher branches
Source RSPB website
It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. It will be an intentional act, for example, if you or your neighbour know there is an active nest in the hedge and still cut the hedge, damaging or destroying the nest in the process.
Importance of hedges for the Hazel Dormice and a project by the People's trust for endangered species
England's hedgerows: don't cut them out!
This Campaign for Rural England have produced an important report which calls for the current Hedgerow Regulations to be improved to give local authorities more powers to protect hedgerows that are valued in their local landscape and community. CPRE's survey showed 42 per cent of local councils want hedgerow protection rules to be made simpler to help them achieve this. CPRE believe with the right improvements, Hedgerows Regulations will become an even more effective means of protecting England’s important hedgerows. See link to download below
Regulations The Natural England website provides links to the Hedgerow regulations.
HedgUcation - see information at the Natural History museum.
Natural England Grassland Guide
Chapter 14 of this has a advise on roadside verges.See our grasslands page for further details.