Meet The Hedgerow Heroes
Plantlife working to restore ancient hedgerows.
This autumn, using age old techniques, conservation charity Plantlife has started work to restore the ancient hedgerows at Ryewater Farm in Dorset, which have been providing wildlife with a vital source of food shelter since medieval times.
Ryewater Farm in Corscombe is an organic farm which is of national importance for its wildflowers and meadows. It’s also home to over a mile of ancient species rich hedgerow and thanks to funding from SITA Trust work has begun to restore this vital habitat to its former glory.
Plantlife’s Joe Costley who will be leading the work says “It’s fantastic news that we have received funding from SITA Trust to carry out this work as the hedgerows at Ryewater Farm are vital. Small fields enclosed by woods and tall, thick hedgerows are part of the distinctive landscape character of this area. Most importantly the hedgerows at Ryewater support a whole host of plants and wildlife, and they need to be maintained or they will develop into a line of trees, which then eventually topple over one by one – and ultimately the hedge is lost. This would be a disaster for wildlife such as bullfinch and song thrush that make use of these hedgerows for feeding and nesting. The birds need thick bushy hedges with plenty of cover, and this restoration work will give them the perfect home for many winters to come. The work will also reduce shading of the ancient meadows that the hedgerows enclose, of benefit to a fabulous array of wild flowers”.
Why hedgerows are worth saving:
- Hedgerows are nature’s motorways .Small mammals, insects, butterflies, plants and even birds use hedgerows to travel from one region to another. The hedgerow provides a corridor along which to move, shelter from the elements, find safety from predators and a supply of food. So if the hedgerows at Ryewater are lost, nature loses its means of travel, its source of sustenance, and becomes isolated and more vulnerable.
- The hedgerows at Ryewater Farm contain over 15 tree and shrub species and the adjoining grassland contains a wonderful array of wild flowers including common spotted orchid, betony, meadow thistle and corky-fruited water-dropwort.
- At this time of year, some of the Ryewater hedgerows are dripping in hawthorn, elder, sloes, spindle, blackberries and even a few crab apples which give you the perfect ingredients for lots of homemade goodies including jam!
Plantlife’s guide to creating a happy hedgerow:
- The hedgerow restoration will involve “laying” the hedgerow shrubs, which involves cutting and laying down the upright stems – bending them in effect, but leaving enough of the stem uncut to keep the stem alive.
- You need to carefully judge the angle to which the stem is laid down in-order to maintain healthy growth but also thicken the base of the hedge.
- There are over 30 different styles of doing this – we will be using the Dorset style where stems of shrubs are laid close to the ground without binding or ‘heathering’.
- Mature oak trees will be retained along the full length of the hedge. Although the principles of hedge laying are simple, it does involve considerable skill to get right.