Category Archives: Hedges and Biodiversity

Hedges and bees – and the future of our crops

There is a good article in the Guardian (here) about research done by Northampton University’s Landscape and Biodiversity Research Group showing that bees use hedgerows to navigate around the countryside.

Of course we already know how crucial bees are for pollinating crops in general, and how disastrous it will be if our bee populations continue to fall. It may provide a lot of low-wage employment if we have to hand-polliinate our future crops, but large parts of our food chain are at risk if we lose the pollinating insects. It is also well known that hedges provide a good environment for insects, bees, and mammals and birds (who are often drawn there by the aforementioned flying and crawling animals as well as by the ground cover).

But it is fascinating to have proof that bees also use hedges as navigation routes. This is significant because it has also been shown that flowering plants close to hedges are more succesful at reproducing (especially those near to a meeting point of hedgerows). It’s yet more proof that the role of hedges in our landscape goes way beyond their heritage and aesthetic importance.

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Filed under Hedges and Biodiversity, Rural Britain

“Juniper Toffee and Elderflower Delight”

Just a quick plug for John Wright’s lovely book on food from the hedgerow:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hedgerow-River-Cottage-Handbook-Wright/dp/140880185X/ref=pd_sim_b_1

He also has a nice wild food website here:  http://www.wild-food.net/page/home

If you happen to be in his part of the world he has a hedgerow ramble coming up, also mentioned on the site.

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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Hedge Politics, Hedges and Biodiversity

Trees for Cities (…and remember that hedges are trees too)

Trees for Cities are a nice charity who aim to help people to plant more urban trees, which is a great cause as trees make a big difference to the urban environment.

Their website is here: http://www.treesforcities.org/

It’s also worth bearing in mind that hedges are trees too. The individual plants may be humble compared to fully grown trees but they carry all the same environmental advantages and more – they provide shelter for birds, insects and other wildlife, they help to absorb CO2, filter pollution, reduce noise, and they soften the urban environment with a touch of greenery. In the average street there are far more trees planted as part of a hedge than fully grown.

One of the blights of my part of London is people pulling up their front gardens and hedges and concreting over them to create parking spaces. It’s ugly, environmentally damaging and increases flood risk by reducing the amount of soil that will absorb water. Urban hedges aren’t afforded the same protection as their country cousins, but in their own way they are just as valuable in their contribution to biodiversity and the environment. They’re not quite our version of the rainforest, but without them we’d be a lot worse off.

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Filed under Gardening Thoughts, Hedges and Biodiversity, Trees

Coppice, Lay or Mow?

There’s an interesting online vote at MyFarm about how to manage a hedgerow on the Wimpole Estate, and in particular whether to coppice it, lay it or mow it – there’s also a video of Simon, the Wimpole Forester, talking through each option.

http://www.my-farm.org.uk/on-the-farm/vote-wider-impacts

As a traditionalist I’d hope they lay it and remember to leave in some hedgerow trees – but there are good arguments for coppicing also, while mowing is often necessitated by cost considerations, but can do the most damage, especially if it is done carelessly.

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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Hedgelaying, Hedges and Biodiversity, Rural Britain

Ancient Hedges in Ireland

In Ireland, hedges were planted to enclose “town lands” from the medieval period onwards. Known as townland boundaries, these are some of the most ancient and species-rich Irish hedges.

A recent survey of hedgerows in County Monaghan found that 12% of the hedges formed part of a townland boundary. More importantly it showed that where townland boundary hedges linked into native woodland they were much more likely to have a rich variety of species, including plant species less common in other hedges such as wood sorrel, ground ivy and hedge woundwort.

There’s a useful website about Irish hedges, with a good selection of links, here:

http://www.thehedge.org

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Filed under Hedges and Biodiversity, Historical Hedges

OMSCo’s Hedgerow Safari programme

This is a nice initiative, helping to teach children about the variety of flora and fauna that can be found in our hedgerows.

http://www.teach-organic.org.uk/index.cfm/e/safari.home

(OMSCo is the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative).

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Filed under Hedges and Biodiversity, Rural Britain

Hedges – a good practice guide

The English Hedgerow Trust has a useful Good Practice Guide on their website here. It has advice on best ways to trim a hedge, how to rejuvenate gappy hedges or hedges that have been damaged by clumsy flail cutting.

One particular bit of good advicefor those maintaining rural hedgerows is to mark some saplings with fluorescent tape and to allow these to grow into hedgerow trees. While many operators of mechanical cutting devices are careful to avoid mature trees, there is a dearth of younger trees being allowed to grow to maturity in our hedgerows and simple practices like this can help to remedy the situation.

http://www.hedgerows.co.uk/

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Filed under Hedgelaying, Hedges and Biodiversity