Trust wins National Lottery support to engage younger people in Hedgerow Heritage project

Jon Hawkins

Thousand year old mosaic landscape in North Downs to benefit from revival in traditional hedgerow skills

A Surrey Wildlife Trust project to revive traditional hedge planting and laying skills in the local community has received initial National Lottery support* for the Hedgerow Heritage project. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to involve thousands of local people in the restoration of hedgerows within the iconic landscape of the North Downs, part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Development funding has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help Surrey Wildlife Trust progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant approaching half a million pounds in July 2019. The project to plant, protect and restore more than 80 kilometres of hedgerows in Surrey is part of a countywide strategy to reverse the fragmentation of the countryside and encourage stewardship of the landscape in the future. 

The project will engage thousands of local people, with a focus on young people from school children to youth groups, to take part in the project.  The project will include hedge laying competitions, a family hedgerow festival and storytelling workshops. The project aims to pass on hedge planting and laying skills from local hedge laying societies to community volunteers, landowners, farm managers and public and private sector contractors.

Well maintained hedgerows not only provide field boundaries, but also vital habitat for flora and fauna and enable species such as dormice, bats, insects and butterflies to travel safely across the landscape. Hedgerows prevent soil erosion and provide a natural barrier to reduce pesticides and fertilisers reaching rivers too. 

Andrew Jamieson, project development manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: “We’re delighted to win this funding from the National Lottery players. It is an incredible opportunity to engage with local communities, to keep heritage hedgerow skills alive and pass on expertise from one generation to the next.”

He continued: “Hedgerows are like arteries running through our landscape. Unless we keep these thriving, then many species will struggle to survive.  It is vital that people, especially the young, learn how important they are and skills are passed on so that the future of both hedgerows and the wildlife that depend on them is assured.”

Hedgerows are an integral part of the iconic mosaic landscape of the North Downs in Surrey and offer a glimpse into the past, with two thirds of England being continuously hedged for over a thousand years. In Surrey there is a rich tradition of hedgerow management techniques, particularly hedge laying.

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, director of biodiversity at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: “These traditional skills and our wildlife are in steep decline, while the numbers of visits to areas of natural beauty are increasing. According to the Surrey Nature Partnership, each year 18 million people visit Surrey’s woodlands for recreation, which has a value of £63 million to the economy.

“And yet while many people and businesses benefit from this AONB, there is little return. So this heritage project will provide some of the much needed investment back into the landscape to safeguard wildlife and protect its natural beauty for future generations.”

Surrey Wildlife Trust will be engaging with local community groups over the coming months to develop the project further.

* HLF Heritage grants programme applications are assessed in two rounds. Hedgerow Heritage has initially been granted round one development funding of £56,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £390,000.