Hedgerow surveys, whether of individual hedges, parishes, districts or even of whole countries, are immensely valuable for the information they provide about the diversity and state of the UK’s hedges and what needs to be done to restore or maintain them.
Partner members of Hedgelink are very keen to promote more surveys: more information is needed for most places about how many hedgerows there are, about their composition and structure, and about their condition. The last comprehensive hedgerow survey – The Countryside Survey – was in 2007 but is being updated in 2023 – watch this space!
Current hedgerow surveys
The Survey has been carried out at regular intervals since 1978. The countryside is sampled and studied using rigorous scientific methods, allowing even gradual and subtle changes in the UK’s countryside to be detected. The latest survey took place in 2007 and the results are now available on the Countryside Survey website.
Countryside Survey is the principle tool used to assess progress with most of the targets in the UK Hedgerow Biodiversity Action Plan. In England, Scotland and Wales it is carried out by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (a Natural Environment Research Council institute). UKCEH is a member organisation of Hedgelink. A linked survey was carried out in Northern Ireland by the University of Ulster.
The main findings from the 2007 survey relating to hedgerows are available on the CS website here. It is also possible to access data on the findings from the survey for a range of plot types associated with hedgerows at regional levels by simply registering as a user on the site in the survey data section of the website.
Updated figures for hedgerows within the Countryside Survey are being collected during 2023 for an update in the extent and condition of hedgerows nationally.
PTES hedgerow surveys
With just six questions, the survey will place each hedge surveyed in the hedge management lifecycle (based on the Adams Hedgerow Management Scale by Nigel Adams) and provide instant management options. It’s been designed for farmers and landowners that want to understand their whole hedge network and create a hedge management plan at the farm scale.
Quickly and simply, you can rapidly assess all the hedges on your land. You can use the management options generated to create a farm or landscape scale management plan for obtaining a healthy hedgerow network.
For: Farmers and landowners
Output: Instant bespoke management advice based on your current hedge condition
When: Best done in winter, when hedge structure is easier to see
Form: Phone app, or paper form and website data input
The Great British Hedgerow Survey from PTES offers an in-depth hedgerow assessment. A streamlined version of the standard survey method, each survey takes about 20 minutes, but generates more detailed feedback both in terms of hedgerow health and management advice. The Great British Hedgerow Survey can be done by anyone interested in hedgerow health, but is particularly suited to wildlife groups, hedge groups and other volunteer groups.
For: Wildlife groups, Parish groups, volunteers etc
Output: An assessment of hedgerow health, with scores for Connectivity, Structure and Wildlife value. Instant bespoke management advice is also provided based on the survey answers. A PDF of results can be downloaded for collaborative work with farmers/landowners.
Form: Paper form and website data input
The standard survey method
In 2007, on behalf of Hedgelink, Defra published the second edition of the popular Hedgerow Survey Handbook (PDF 900k): A standard procedure for local surveys in the UK.
The Handbook sets out a standard way of recording hedgerows. Its focus is on the wildlife, or biodiversity, of hedgerows, but it takes account of the importance of hedgerows for farming and their contribution to the beauty of our countryside and to our history and culture.
Using the survey method presented in this handbook will give you accurate information about the state of hedgerows at a local level, about the main influences on their condition, and what needs to be done to maintain or restore them.
The hedgerow recording form for use with the standard Handbook method can be downloaded as a Word document here (DOC, 431k).
The Handbook also contains a form to summarize the key information from local surveys. Completion of this form is very helpful to allow the results from local surveys to be compared and contrasted, and in particular to help develop country-wide and UK pictures about the state of our hedgerows. Here you can download the summary report form.
Completed survey information should be sent to Local Record Centres (see www.nfbr.org.uk for details).
Past – but still relevant! – hedgerow surveys
Hedgerow Survey Toolkit
This toolkit was developed to support a major hedgerow survey of the Princethorpe Living Landscape Zone in east Warwickshire in the 2012-2013 period, which was being carried out by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust with funding from SITA Trust. The toolkit is designed to assist hedgerow surveys undertaken anywhere in the UK and images have been carefully selected to show the sorts of hedgerow features and hedgerow plants you are most likely to encounter. It can be used in conjunction with the Defra Hedgerow Survey Handbook.
OPAL Biodiversity Survey
The OPAL Biodiversity survey helped scientists learn more the nation’s hedges so that the condition of these important habitats could be mapped for conservation. The OPAL Biodiversity Survey, led by The Open University, aimed to find out more about the importance of hedges to nature by asking everyone to identify the plants and insects that live in them and record what findings. Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth, a complex jigsaw made up of plants, animals and their habitats. Hedges are an important habitat and can support a wide diversity of life in all kinds of rural and urban locations.
Although entries are now closed it is a great exercise to carry out for fun to better understand your hedge. A free identification guide and activity book can be downloaded here.
The OPAL Biodiversity Survey was led by The Open University, in association with Hedgelink and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). It was funded as a part of OPAL’s grant from the Big Lottery Fund of £11.75m.
Review of Surveys
On behalf of Hedgelink, in 2007 Defra commissioned Barr Ecology to compile an inventory of UK hedgerow surveys undertaken since the 1980’s, regardless of the survey methodology. In all, 70 surveys were found, and questionnaires completed for 51 of these. The review is a helpful resource for all those carrying out surveys. You can be able to find out what other surveys have been carried out in your locality and learn lessons from those carried out elsewhere but in similar circumstances or with similar objectives. The inventory will be updated as further surveys come to light or are completed.
Here you can download the full hedgerow survey review (Excel document 155 KB).
Local hedgerow surveys completed with Defra funding
From 2006-2010 Defra grant-aided local hedgerow surveys, nearly all in England. A list of these surveys by year can be seen below. Other sources of possible funding for surveys are given in Appendix 3 to the Hedgerow Survey Handbook.
In 2009 a review was carried out of all those of Defra-sponsored surveys carried out in 2006, 2007 and 2008 using the standard procedure. This was accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows the key results for each survey grant-aided by Defra between 2006 and 2010 (please note: this spreadsheet contains mainly tabular data and is not designed for printing).
The review found that the quality of survey reports and information provided was high. A total of 4,207 hedgerows were sampled, covering 787 km. The combined area surveyed was 7,360km2, 5.5% of the area of England. The 20 surveys were distributed across all Government Office regions. The review concluded that local surveys are effective in helping to deliver local hedgerow BAP targets, leading to direct conservation action. They stimulate provision of management advice to farmers and other landowners, and influence policy and resource allocation. Local surveys are also effective at raising awareness and understanding of hedgerows among local communities, and at increasing public participation in their conservation. They also have a valuable role to play in improving understanding about the state of hedgerows across the nation, and about countrywide priorities for action. Local surveys support, challenge and complement the information provided by Countryside Survey.
Key HAP priorities to emerge from the review are:
- Promotion of management, especially laying, coppicing and planting, to prevent and fill gaps and to increase the size of over-short or thin hedgerows;
- The restoration of plant communities affected by nutrient enrichment, and
- The recruitment of young hedgerow trees.
Recommendations are made about future targeting of surveys and about improvements to reporting. Sponsorship of surveys in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by appropriate authorities is highly desirable.
2006 Defra grant-aided surveys
- Bedfordshire County Council – Studham & Whipsnade Hedgerow Study
- Calderdale Council – The Calderdale Hedge Hunt
- Campaign to Protect Rural England – Warwickshire
- Chilterns Conservation Board – Survey of stock and condition of hedgerows in the Chilterns AONB
- Derbyshire Wildlife Trust – Chesterfield hedgerows survey
- Durham Biodiversity Partnership – Durham hedgerow Survey
- Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre – Pilot assessment of biological and historical features in Kent
- Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council – Rotherham ancient and species-rich hedgerow survey
2007 Defra grant-aided surveys
- Bedfordshire County Council – Maulden Parish hedgerow study
- Dorset Environmental Records Centre – Dorset hedgerow surveys
- Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group – Devon hedgerow project
- Chilterns Conservation Board – Survey of the stock and condition of hedgerows in the Chilterns AONB
- Sussex Wildlife Trust- Sussex hedgerow inventory
- South Gloucestershire Council – South Gloucestershire field boundaries survey of Development Pressure Area
- Cumbria Biodiversity Partnership – Cumbria hedgerows project
2008 Defra grant-aided surveys
- BTCV Species-rich and ancient hedgerows in the Canterbury area
- Cumbria Biodiversity Partnership – Cumbria hedge survey
- Bromley Borough – Darwin’s hedgerows
- Cheshire FWAG – Shocklach ancient hedge survey
- Devon FWAG – Devon hedgerow survey project
- Exmoor National Park – Celebrating Exmoors hedges
- Bedfordshire County Council – Chalk Hills hedgerow study
- Three Valleys – Hedgerows of the Moss Valley
2009 Defra grant-aided surveys
- Severn Vale hedgerow survey: Parishes of Longney, Frampton, Elmore, Slimbridge and Frocester.
- Malvern Hills AONB hedgerow survey: Malvern Hills AONB, including parts of # Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
- Cornwall hedgerow survey project: St Dennis and Tregony Parishes.
- Chalk Hills Hedgerow Survey II: Area east of Barton Hills SSSI including Deacon Hill SSSI and the farmland to the north around Knocking Hoe SSSI on the border of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
- Historic Parklands and Estates Hedgerow Survey, West Yorkshire: Harewood, Lotherton Hall and Temple Newsham estates in Leeds District, West Yorkshire.
- Devon Hedgerow Survey 3: Parish of Spreyton.
2010 Defra grant-aided surveys
- West Worcester Tree and Hedgerow Survey: North-west of Worcester City, between St John’s, Hallow and the villages of Lower Broadheath and Upper Broadheath.
- Dorset Hedgerow Surveys: Parishes of Hammoon, Manston and Hinton St Mary, together with small areas of Marnhull, Sturminster Newton and Okeford Fitzpaine, in North Dorset.
- Kingsclere Parish Hedgerow Survey: Kingsclere Parish, NW Hants (half of parish is in N Wessex Downs AONB).
- Hartlepool Hedgerow Survey: The Borough of Hartlepool.
- Severn Vale hedgerow survey (Phase 2): Severn Vale parishes/parts of Arlingham, Cam, Coaley, Eastington, Elmore, Frampton on Severn, Frocester, Fretherne with Saul, Longney, Slimbridge and Whitminster.
- Hedgerows for Hazeleigh Woods Project: Hazeleigh Woods Living Landscape area, Maldon district, Essex. The area stretches from the parish of Woodham Mortimer eastwards to the Blackwater estuary.
- Moreton, Fyfield and The Lavers Hedgerow Survey: Parishes of Moreton, Fyfield and The Lavers in Epping Forest District, Essex.
- Hedge Laying Association of Ireland hedgerow surveys
- Some excellent examples of hedgerow surveys can be found on the website of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland
The Suffolk Hedgerow Survey
Since 1999 the Suffolk Coastal Greenprint Forum has been organising voluntary hedgerow surveys, initially within the Suffolk Coastal area, but soon expanding to cover the whole of Suffolk. By October 2010 a hundred and seventy six parishes had completed their surveys of 22,800 hedgerows.
The Suffolk Biological Records Centre is already relating the hedgerow data, to data it holds on the incidence of various species and habitats, and clear correlations are already emerging between landscape and species rich hedgerows to the favourable status of those species and habitats.
Suffolk Coastal District Council established an environmental forum (the Greenprint Forum), initially to decide on its Agenda and in 1998 appointed a hedgerow working group to survey all landscape hedgerows in every parish in the district to record, for the very first time on such a wide scale, every hedgerow excluding towns, villages, private gardens, woods and forest.
The working group set up a modus operandi, issued some local publicity, inherited a trial run which had virtually collapsed no sooner than it had started, set up training for volunteers from the parishes and launched the project which ran continuously for 12 years until the final parish survey was completed in January 2012.
The data collection part of the project ended at the end of 2011, by which time 317 parish surveys had been completed, providing data on 38,295 landscape hedgerows.
More information including the final report can be found here.
Less hedges layed in Devon
A survey of contractors in Devon has shown that the amount of hedge laying and planting had fallen in recent years, and links this to the decline in grant aid available under schemes like Environmental Stewardship over recent years. Read the full report here (pdf – 95KB)
Hedgerow management on farms
National Statistics on agri-environment and business practices on farms with regard to hedgerow management, were carried out by as part of Defra’s Farm Practices Survey in 2008.
Four main topics are covered by the report; administration, business practices, livestock and environmental impacts which includes a section on hedgerow management (section 6) and the survey aims to investigate the impact of farming on the environment. A more descriptive report is due to be published towards the end of 2008.
Historic Defra publications can also be requested from firstname.lastname@example.org.