Hedgerows are new housing for scores of species
THE Wildlife Trust has volunteers young and old.
Meeting them gives you a buzz because of their love of the wildlife in their own patch.
Over the weekend I met The First Astley Scouts and Pegasus Explorer Scouts, who were braving the wind and rain at our new Cutacre nature reserve in Tyldesley, on the Salford/Wigan border.
They were planting hawthorn and hazel to create hedgerows.
Hedgerows are a true feature of our countryside, crisscrossing large areas.
They are bushes with occasional trees rising up.
Used as barriers to prevent livestock escaping into neighbouring fields and roads, they were also used as boundaries between parishes.
Two thirds of England has been hedged for a thousand years, making hedgerows a window into our past.
They range in date from Medieval boundaries to the 19th century Enclosures Act when many fields were divided into pockets.
After the Second World War intensive farming and new housing saw the destruction of many hedgerows and we lost nearly a quarter in 50 years.
Many that are left are in poor condition.
So why am I making such a fuss?
Hedgerows are vital for wildlife. We have a Biodiversity Action Plan in the UK which aims to protect and encourage species that are in danger – more than 100 of these species are associated with hedgerows.
Hedgerows are made up of wonderful shrubs like hawthorn and buckthorn, with hazel, ash and oak rising out of the top.
Traveller’s joy and honeysuckle can weave their scented way into the bushes and red campion adds colour throughout spring and summer.
Insects buzz around in warmer seasons, which attracts farmland birds like blue tit, great tit, yellowhammer, whitethroat and thrush. Berries provide winter food for lots of birds.
Many birds nest in hedgerows, including our blackbird, and birds of prey use them to look out for the mice and voles that live among the shrubbery.
Brown hares do not live in burrows, they have their young in shallow depressions or a flattened nest of grass.
This makes hedgerows perfect shelter.
Other inhabitants include bank vole, harvest mouse and the hedgehog. The destruction of hedgerows is one of the reasons why hedgehog numbers have fallen so dramatically in England.
Hedgerows are green commuter routes for foraging and roosting. You can expect to see natterer’s bats and owls scouting along the edges.
The Wildlife Trust speaks to farmers and land owners about creating new hedgerows. On our nature reserves volunteers ensure we are leading the way in the re-introduction of this important habitat.
To become a member of the trust, go to the websitelancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.
For more about Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or visit cheshirewildlife trust.org.uk.
●● Scouts get to work on a new hedgerow