Skip to main content

Category: Uncategorised

Hedgerow cutting procrastination – “Go on, give it a go”

Recently the government introduced the new Hedgerow Management Regulations (England) 2024 which plugged the gap left by cross-compliance measures ending, for agricultural hedgerows. For more information check out our recent article on this announcement.

Although for many landowners this may not have changed anything (as cross-compliance meant seasonal cutting rules already), it does mean now that most of our agricultural field hedges are covered by these regulations. What this means for hedgerow cutting is no cutting between 1st March to 31st August.

For those managing hedgerows alongside roads or paths, it is essential that they are managed to ensure the safety of all of us walking, cycling, driving, scooting, riding, or however you may travel. For this reason there are some exemptions for e.g. hedges along roads or paths.

This year we’ve had lots of rain (maybe too much!) and this combined with summer’s sun, means that at this time of year our hedgerows are looking full, billowy and a bit wild.

For some, this may look ‘unkempt’ and the temptation to cut hedges may be great, especially as we get on into the latter stages of summer. For those who are eagerly awaiting 1st September it is worthwhile thinking about the benefits of holding off on getting the flail out and letting hedges grow a bit more, or even giving them another year off being cut.

Why would we do that?

A lot of our hedgerow tree and shrub species flower on second-year growth. This means that annually cutting drastically reduces the amount of flowers and therefore berries produced – not ideal for pollinators or overwintering birds.

At this time of year our hedgerows have been growing well after flowering in the spring and early summer and a berries, nuts and fruit will be setting, ready to be the much-needed resource of over-wintering birds, mammals, insects and human hedgerow foragers.

Cutting hedgerows in early autumn can remove a lot of this essential food-resource, before wildlife needs it later in the season. We know that uncut hedgerows, hedgerows that have had at least 2 years off being cut, hedgerows that have been incrementally trimmed, and hedgerows that are cut later in the winter have far more food provision for over-wintering wildlife so by holding off on cutting, we can really help out. Skipping a year can also save a bit of cash too!

Cutting in autumn is essential for some landowners as ground conditions in late winter can mean that getting a tractor into some fields can be difficult and destructive in itself to field margins.

For those who can hold off, this is one of the few times that a bit of hedge cutting procrastination can really pay off.

South Ribble’s Hedgehog Action Plan championing good local authority hedgerow management

South Ribble Council have announced their ‘Hedgehog Action Plan’ to and create and manage their hedgerows in a better way. By doing so they are hoping to provide a better habitat for our prickly (and all our other feathery, furry, slimy, many-legged, and chitinous friends) little friends.

The Hedgehog Action Plan outlines how the council will work to support habitats, create dedicated Hedgehog ‘corridors’, encourage pro-biodiversity development and to raise awareness of how everyone in the community can make changes to support hedgehogs and other wildlife.

As part of the action plan, the council will:

  • Change maintenance schedules with the aim of keeping hedges dense by cutting once every three years and on rotation so that no more than one third of hedges are cut in any one year. This will only apply to hedgerows where additional growth will not block access or impact sightlines.
  • Encourage growth at the base of hedges and ‘Gap-up’ hedges with additional planting and laying.
  • Minimise the use of pesticides.
  • Provide a means of ramped escape from steep sided features (ditches and ponds) and replace broken drain covers.
  • Encourage the removal of barriers to the movement of species.
  • Support the community to be more hedgehog conscious and to make positive changes to support hedgehogs in their area.
  • Ensure that emerging Local Plan sets strong ambitious targets for improving biodiversity through development.

 

Keep up the good work South Ribble!

Click HERE for the Lancashire Post’s write-up

New article on managing hedges for invertebrates!

New article from Rob Wolton all about managing hedges for invertebrates!

Hedges are rich habitats for invertebrates, especially if managed well. Rob Wolton has recorded over 1,800 species from a single hedge in Devon, an ordinary one in the context of that county, and that was far from a full inventory. This tally of invertebrates included 60 Nationally Rare or Nationally Scarce species. But all too often hedges fall far short of their wildlife potential, especially for invertebrates, because they are not managed well. In this article Rob Wolton identifies key actions that can be taken to address this.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 now Law!

In April, the Government announced its intention to introduce hedgerow protections, which had lapsed as cross compliance with European rules ended at the beginning of the year. 

Now The Management of Hedgerows (England) Regulations 2024 has been made into law, effective from May 23, 2024, providing a legal baseline for hedgerow management practices. 

This includes: 

  • a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, where a green cover must be established and maintained. Also, no cultivation or the application of pesticides or fertilisers should take place within this buffer strip. 
  • a hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August (inclusive). 

The new legislation broadly mirrors the previous approach under cross compliance, which should make it straightforward for farmers and others who are familiar with the requirements. 

The Government says the regulations will be enforced by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), in “a fair and proportionate way” and the RPA has been talking to farmers and others about the best approaches. From day one, the RPA says it will take an “advice-led approach”, with stronger actions in only the worst cases.  

The RPA will hold a public consultation on how to implement and enforce these protections in due course. Hedgelink members will be working with the RPA on how best to do this. 

To find out more, please visit https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/05/23/hedgerow-regulations-now-law/  

Progress on protecting rural hedgerows in England

As reported previously, the government has been developing plans to reinstate protections for rural hedgerows in England, which lapsed following the post-Brexit phase-out of European farming policy. Pleasingly, following strong support from a wide range of stakeholders, new regulations have been prepared and were laid in parliament in mid-April. Read on for a summary of the latest progress.

What do the regulations cover?

The new regulations seek to put basic hedgerow management practices into law; the requirements will be familiar to any farmer or landowner that previously received payments under the Basic Payments Scheme.

The rules will include:

  • Requirement that a 2-metre buffer strip, measured from the centre of a hedgerow, is established, and maintained. No cultivation, or application of fertilisers or pesticides should take place within the buffer strip.
  • A hedgerow cutting ban from 1 March to 31 August.

These rules are designed to prevent harm to the structure and health of hedgerows and ensure that they remain valuable assets for wildlife and the environment.

While the rules are generally consistent with previous requirements, if agreed by parliament, they will apply to all agricultural land, rather than only where Basic Payments were received. However, there are some proposed exemptions, and it is recommended that any farmer or landowner refers to the detail in the draft regulations. There is also advice available from sector organisations, such as the NFU. Further guidance will be made available by the government, which should help landowners understand how the rules will affect them.

For clarity, the new regulations cover the management of hedgerows. The removal of hedgerows is regulated by local planning authorities separately under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, to which there is currently no proposed change.

How will the rules be enforced?

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will be the regulator for the new hedgerow management regulations. Guidance about the rules and enforcement will be consulted on and published in due course, and this will be communicated to key stakeholders. The RPA currently intend to follow an ‘advice-led’ approach, and will seek to be fair and proportionate, but there will also be a range of sanctions that they can use in cases of non-compliance. Further detail should also be forthcoming on any plans for monitoring and reporting – for example, questions remain about whether there will be proactive inspections and if not, how possible breaches of the rules would be identified.

When would they come into force?

If agreed by parliament, the regulations will come into force immediately, reflecting a sense of urgency to bring back these important rules.

We hope that the pace is kept up and that the regulations go smoothly through parliamentary processes. We will keep close watch on this important policy area and provide further updates!

New Hedgerow Management Film from FWAG East – Hedge Your Best

In FWAG East’s short film marking National Hedgerow Week 2024, hedge-conscious farmers explore the best ways to make their hedgerows work for the farm business, delivering value for wildlife AND the bottom line. They conclude there is now ‘no excuse’ for poor hedge management and that you would ‘be a fool not to’ take up the generous funding on offer that supports farmers undertaking more extensive management approaches.

Click here for video

CPRE article: Hedge helpers: the restorative power of hedgelaying

When Christopher Hart teamed up with friends to lay a hedgerow, the results astonished them all.

Find out more in CPRE’s recent article about the power of hedgelaying.

Hedge helpers: the restorative power of hedgelaying

UKCEH Creates Most Comprehensive Map of England’s Hedgerows to Date

Here’s what the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have to say:

“NEW! We’ve created the most comprehensive map of England’s hedgerows to date!

💡 390,000km of hedgerow on field boundaries

📏 Depicts hedgerow length and height (for the first time!)

🔎 Reveals areas with highest and lowest hedgerow densities  

Hedgerows have been a part of our rural landscape since the Bronze Age, marking boundaries and keeping in livestock. But they also support biodiversity and can capture and store large amounts of carbon as well providing other services including preventing soil loss.  

📉 However half of Britain’s hedgerows were lost between the 1940s and 1990s. Our map will aid targeted hedgerow planting and restoration efforts, linking up habitats and improving the hedgerow network.  

🔍 The map reveals that Cornwall has the highest hedgerow density in England. The lowest densities, excluding major urban areas, are in Surrey, Hampshire, and Berkshire  

UKCEH scientists took high-resolution LIDAR data collected by the Environment Agency and processed these through the JASMIN super-computer to create this ground breaking new map. Its development was funded by UK Research and Innovation’s AgZero+ programme.”

To read more check out the UKCEH’s press release here.

Celebrating 50 Years of National Tree Week

National Tree Week (25 November – 3 December) is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration. Each year, the country’s conservation sector, volunteer groups and tree-lovers come together to plant thousands of trees to mark the start of the tree and hedge planting season.

This year’s National Tree Week is extra special as it marks the 50th anniversary of the famous ‘Plant a Tree in 73’ campaign – from which National Tree Week was born!

The Tree Council has curated a rich array of activities, engaging events, and enlightening Tree Talks waiting for your participation. For a glimpse into the offerings, pay a visit to their website.

Are you gearing up to contribute by planting a new hedge for this celebration? That’s fantastic news! Before you grab your whips and tools, make sure to explore the Hedge Hub for invaluable expert insights and guidance on planting and nurturing your new hedge.

Manage hedgerows? Your thoughts matter.

Do you manage hedgerows or work with those who do? If so, we want to hear from you! 

Your insights will help us shape materials that’ll enhance hedgerow management by farmers, landowners and land managers like you. We want to make sure the positive hedge message reaches the right people in the right format.

Share your expertise in our short survey.

It’ll only take 5-10 minutes of your time, and its live until November 30, 2023. The survey is being conducted by The Tree Council and partners, as part of the Life on the Hedge programme.

National Hedgelaying Championship – Saturday 28 October

Come and see a hundred of the best hedgelayers from around the country display their skills in the highest level of competition!

Hedgelaying differs around the country in the way that it is done and the National Championship has many of the different styles on show. It is a unique opportunity to see all these regional variations in one place and talk to experts in all of them.

9am to 5pm (Hedgelaying competition 9am to 2pm). Admission costs £5 per car.

Stanford Hall, Lutterworth, Leicestershire LE17 6DH

For further information please visit the National Hedgelaying Society website.

 

Surrey Hedgerow Festival – Saturday 21 October

Support local artists and businesses with a great day of music, craft and conservation when Surrey Wildlife Trust and West Horsley Place host the UK’s very first hedgerow-themed music and arts festival!

Designed as a celebration of the rich cultural and natural history of these ‘forgotten heroes’ of our landscape, Surrey Hedgerow Festival will feature:

  • Folk, jazz and rock music from local performers
  • Educational talks, guided nature walks and professional storytelling
  • Food and refreshments from a variety of local vendors
  • Art displays
  • Roaming performances from Guildford Shakespeare

For more information please click here.

The Hedgerow Heritage Project

The festival is the pinnacle event of the Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Hedgerow Heritage project, a four-year initiative funded and supported by the Heritage Lottery which seeks to engage a new generation in conservation and to promote and preserve the skills we need to keep our hedgerows healthy.

Seed Gathering Season Begins

Grow the Hedges of the Future

As the nights draw in it’s tempting to hunker inside – but this is the best time of year to explore your local woods or nearest park, and gather the seeds, nuts and fruits that will grow to become the next generation of life-giving trees, shrubs and hedgerows.

The Autumn Equinox is the official start of The Tree Council’s Seed Gathering Season. Over the next month, we’ll be running online masterclasses and sharing practical information around how to identity trees and collect seeds; process and prepare them for growing, and then sow and plant them out.

Seed gathering is fun, free and easy. Wherever you live, whatever your age, you can get involved. You don’t need to be a hedge expert or have any special equipment – just a love of trees and nature and lots of enthusiasm!

Visit The Tree Council website for more information.

The Hedgelife Help Out results are in!

With over 2,100 submissions, CPRE’s Hedgelife Help Out project (in collaboration with The Tree Council) proved to be a huge success. What’s more, a vast majority found it great for wellbeing and felt more connected to nature.

CPRE were delighted with the enthusiasm that so many people showed in their inaugural ‘Hedgelife Help Out’ project during May, as part of the wider Big Help Out initiative.

The project took the form of a straightforward ‘survey’ and asked people to go out and spend time near a hedgerow, reporting back what they saw, the wildlife they found, and how the experience made them feel.

The aim was to create an accessible citizen science project that not only gave insight into the state of hedgerows across the country, but also helped people connect with nature. You can view the top-line results here.