Woman's Weekly (UK)

Celebratin­g Britain: Our heavenly hedgerows

Our countrysid­e boundaries are not only beautiful, theyÕre a haven for wildlife too

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Nothing sums up spring better than a lush hedgerow dotted with flowers, buzzing with insects and chirruping with birdsong. As well as hosting a rich and varied

provide mix of flora and fauna, hedgerows a life-support system for an abundance of different creatures.

One study recorded more than 2,000 different species in just 85m of hedge in Devon. And, according to the RSPB, our hedges may support up to 80% of woodland birds, half of all mammals and 30% of butterflie­s. United Nations World In support of the

March Wildlife Day, taking place on the 3

and to raise awareness of wild animals plants, here are some fabulous reasons

and to celebrate and preserve these vital

beautiful countrysid­e. iconic features of our

Wayside flowers

As the days brighten, so do our hedgerows. From nodding bluebells to buttery primroses and red campion, hedges provide a glorious tapestry of colour, not just for us to enjoy, but for wildlife too.

✣ Hedgerow flowers belonging to the cow parsley family, such as wild angelica, hogweed, water dropworts and wild carrot, are particular­ly beneficial, since their large flowerhead­s are laden with nectar, providing a magnet for pollinatin­g insects.

✣ Hedgerow herbs and shrubs also provide a handy snack for farm animals, and can even be a source of natural medicine. Cows and sheep, for example, are known to munch on the rough leaves of plants like hogweed to get rid of parasitic worms.

Animal sanctuarie­s

An enormous 70% of our landscape is made up of farmland, so hedgerows are often the only available home for huge numbers of invertebra­tes, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians, including grass snakes, common lizards, slow-worms, hedgehogs, voles and shrews. These population­s in turn provide food for other creatures like barn owls and kestrels, as well as weasels and stoats.

You may not be able to tell just by looking at one, but hedges act as animal highways, making it much easier for creatures like bats and dormice to move freely and safely across the countrysid­e to roost, breed and forage.

Hedgerow loss

Sadly, since World War Two, far more hedgerows have been removed than planted, due to developmen­t, modern farming methods and poor management.

In some parts of the country, 50% of hedgerows have disappeare­d, contributi­ng to the steep decline of many plant and animal species. Fortunatel­y, hedgerows are now legally recognised sites of biodiversi­ty and there are grants available to encourage their planting and protection.

Birds…

Hedges are a haven for birds, providing nesting material, food and protection from predators.

At least 30 different species of bird nest in hedgerows. Some, like wrens, robins, linnets, dunnocks and white-throats, prefer the lower shrub layer, while others, like song thrushes, blackbirds, chaffinche­s, willow warblers and greenfinch­es, can be seen higher up.

…and bees

Hedges are also a bumblebee paradise, especially in early spring, when trees and shrubs such as willows, cherry, hawthorn and blackthorn provide nectar for emerging bumblebee queens to feed upon, when there’s little else around. Later in the year, early autumn flowers enable new queens to build their fat reserves to survive hibernatio­n.

Butterflie­s and other flying insects also use the shelter that hedges provide to enable them to fly.

Why hedgerows matter

Hedgerows were traditiona­lly used to mark out boundaries, dating right back to the Bronze Age, and many of today’s hedges have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years. Today, this network of living history plays an important role in the environmen­t, helping to prevent soil erosion, and reduce flooding and pollution.

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 ??  ?? Most hedgerows are brimming with colour
Most hedgerows are brimming with colour
 ??  ?? Hedges aren’t just for farms and meadows; they are a wildlife-friendly alternativ­e to fences in your
own garden too. Choose a mix of native trees and shrubs, such as hawthorn, hazel, holly, wild privet and dog rose to add variety and provide year-round flowers and berries for insects and birds. You never know what you might
attract!
Hedges aren’t just for farms and meadows; they are a wildlife-friendly alternativ­e to fences in your own garden too. Choose a mix of native trees and shrubs, such as hawthorn, hazel, holly, wild privet and dog rose to add variety and provide year-round flowers and berries for insects and birds. You never know what you might attract!
 ??  ?? Hedges provide much-needed shelter for small animals
GROW YOUR OWN
Hedges provide much-needed shelter for small animals GROW YOUR OWN
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 ??  ?? Hedgerows were used as a way of creating boundaries
The flowers of shrubs provide nectar for bees
Hedgerows were used as a way of creating boundaries The flowers of shrubs provide nectar for bees
 ??  ?? A variety of hedgeplant­s can attract different
wildlife
A variety of hedgeplant­s can attract different wildlife
 ??  ?? Hedgerows are home to many species of bird
Hedgerows are home to many species of bird
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