From May 8 – 14, it’s National Hedgerow Week 2023 (NHW), brought to you by The Tree Council and partners, and this year the focus is ‘healthy hedgerows’ – those big, bursting, bastions of biodiversity that shape our countryside and soften our urban spaces.
The government’s newly released Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) seeks to create or restore 30,000 miles of new hedgerows by 2037, rising to 45,000 by 2050. And while The Tree Council welcomes these targets and wants everyone to appreciate and enjoy the benefits UK hedgerows bring, we also want the nation to help collect hedgerow data for analysis into the health of our hedgerows nationwide, information that hasn’t been updated since the 2007 Countryside Survey.
This year, NHW coincides with National Plant Health Week.
Understanding the current condition, age and distribution of our hedgerows is urgent, and absolutely vital for policymaking, so that organisations championing hedgerows like The Tree Council – and our Hedgelink partners – know where to prioritise resources and effort.
The most recent 2007 Countryside Survey found that less than half (48%) of hedgerows were in good condition, while the previous survey in 1998 identified a whopping 40% decrease in hedgerow trees between one and four years old, with a general 3% decrease in hedgerow tree numbers since 1990.
Help your hedge be healthy!
Once you know what you are looking for, try exploring your area to determine the condition of the precious natural lifelines you discover. Then feed that important information into the People’s Trust for Endangered Species’ (PTES) Great British Hedgerow Survey – a nationwide hedgerow health-check.
If you come across any unusual pests or diseases on your hedge, please report them to Forest Research’s Tree Alert.
And if you find that perfect hedge, you could even submit it to Chris Packham’s Hedgerow of the Year competition – launched during NHW 2022.
This NHW, we’ve got Springwatch’s Lucy Lapwing and PTES’ dormouse expert, Ian White delivering a free, online Hedge Talk detailing all the benefits happy hedgerows bring across urban and rural locations, for wildlife and humans.
We are also hosting a free, online Hedge Talk with the organisation behind all previous Countryside Surveys, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), to discover the latest on hedgerow health across the UK, and plans for future data collection and analysis.
And we’ve got actor and television presenter – turned Wild Farmer and baking pioneer – George Lamb, delivering a free, online Hedge Talk into the Future of Food, alongside chef, Kate Forrester.
The Tree Council CEO, Sara Lom said: “Hedgerows are a magnificent part of our national heritage, some of them as old as Britain’s ancient palaces and castles. They provide homes for wildlife and storage for carbon, bring joyful blossom in springtime and fruit for foragers in the autumn.
“This year, we want the nation to help gather data on their condition. Only by discovering the state of our hedgerows and what keeps them healthy, can we work together to protect them for the future.”
National Hedgerow Week 2023, brought to you by The Tree Council and partners, runs from May 8 – May 14. All Hedge Talks are free but booking is essential. To reserve your place, and find lots more hedgerow information and resources, please visit www.nationalhedgerowweek.org.uk
There’s more on The Tree Council’s substack channel, Tree Talk: Our landscapes could be transformed by approaching gap in hedgerow tree succession