© Sue Crookes
© Jon Hawkins
© Tom Marshall
Criss-crossing the countryside, hedgerows can be seen dividing up our landscapes, but the condition of these important habitats is declining through over-management and neglect.
Hedgerow Heroes is an exciting new project starting in 2017 that will train volunteers to survey, restore and protect Surrey's precious hedgerow networks, enabling wild plants and animals to interact, move around and expand their populations.
Why are hedgerows important?
Hedgerows can be composed of a single species but are most important for wildlife as a mix of shrubs such as hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, dogwood and hazel, interwoven with climbers like traveller's-joy and honeysuckle.
Trees associated with hedges such as oak and ash can be more important for wildlife such as bats and moths than hedgerows themselves. Banks and ditches fill with wild flowers like hedge bedstraw and red campion providing a vital nector source for pollinators.
Species that rely on hedges
Older hedgerows support an amazing diversity of plants and animals. 130 species of conservation concern are known to rely on them!
Butterflies, such as the rare black and brown hairstreaks, purple emperor and pearl-bordered fritillary, use them for nectar or to lay their eggs.
Mammals like the European-protected hazel dormouse, bank vole, harvest mouse and hedgehog nest and feed in hedgerows. 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 hedges.
Loss of hedgerows
Since the Second World War, the total length of the UK’s ancient hedgerows has dramatically declined and by the 1990s, 121,000 km of hedgerows had been lost across the UK. While hedgerow length has stabilised in recent years, the condition of hedgerows are showing worrying declines.
Neglect of hedgerows
Neglect and poor management are major problems, with a decline in traditional management techniques like hedge-laying and general neglect leaving gappy hedges and lines of mature trees. Excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides in intensive farming can also damage hedgerows.
Loss of species
A number of species suffering declines in recent years can be related to hedgerow loss or decline in condition. These include hedgehogs, hazel dormice, brown hairstreak butterflies, greater horseshoe bats and hoverflies.
The Solution - Hedgerow Heroes!
We will train Hedgerow Heroes to:
- Survey hedges in their local community
- Manage and monitor their local hedgerows.
- Plant new hedges.
Register your interest below to become a Hedgerow Hero in 2017