This last few weeks we have been busy planting new hedges and beating up existing ones. Hedges are beneficial for many different reasons – from field shelter for stock to stopping wind erosion. They also create habitat for wildlife, and with that in mind we use a diverse variety of plants that provided not only shelter but also food during the hard winter months.
We have planted a 1000m of new hedges this year, and the species mix is Beech, Hawthorn, Holly, Crab Apple, Rowan, Hornbean and Dog Rose. This mix should provide food for many various species of small birds and also for pollinators.
Mammals like the European-protected hazel dormouse, bank vole, harvest mouse and hedgehog nest and feed in hedgerows, and bats, such as the Greater Horseshoe and Natterer’s bats use them as green ‘commuter routes’ for foraging and roosting. Woodland and farmland birds such as Blue Tit, Great Tit, Yellowhammer and Whitethroat can be found along the hedges.
Hedgerows can also prevent soil erosion, capture pollutants such as fertilisers and pesticides running off fields, store carbon to help combat climate change, and provide homes for predators of many pest species. They also provide vital links across the countryside for wildlife, helping it to move about freely and keeping populations healthy.
Plants like Blackthorn and Hawthorn provide fantastic shelter for invertebrate, small mammals and birds. Hedges are handy for them too, and offer relative safety for animals while they move about hedges can be a great way to link fragmented biodiversity hotspots.
Clearing up young hedges is a long process as it has to be done by hand as the estate works towards its organic status. We cleared more than 2km of existing hedges.