Skip to main content

National Hedge Week: Celebrating the Wonderful World of Hedges

Hedgerows are an amazing, but often overlooked, habitat that provide huge benefits for humans and wildlife. The Tree Council estimate that we have lost over 75% of our hedgerows in the last 50 years, around 118,000 miles, and many that remain are threatened by declining health or poor management. National Hedge Week is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of their key role in the landscape and look at ways we can help them thrive in the future.  

Whether your hedge is on a farm or in your back garden, it is providing vital services to the environment such as cleaner air, carbon capture, natural flood management and increasing soil health. Hedgerows on farms have been found to sequester 13 million tonnes of carbon each year, 25% of the yearly farming emissions, and it is recommended that we need at least 40% more hedgerows to keep pace with current carbon forecasts. After record breaking rainfall this year, and more wet winters predicted, it is good to know that planting a hedgerow increases water infiltration, decreases soil erosion, and reduces nutrient runoff into rivers and streams. A 50m hedge can store between 150 to 375 cubic metres of water and then slow release this in drier periods.  

In terms of supporting wildlife, 130 biodiversity action plan species find a home in a hedge including some our most threatened mammals such as the hazel dormouse and hedgehog. Hedgerows provide connectivity between different habitats and form protective corridors for many species of birds, mammals, and invertebrates. Dormice, for example, dislike travelling across open fields and spend most of their lives in the dense shrub of hedges or in the tree canopy. Bats use hedges as feeding corridors, tracking moths at night who benefit from hiding in hedges during the day. Migratory birds like fieldfare and redwing need hedgerows to feed from in winter as do many of our resident birds such as song thrush and yellowhammer.  

Two photos of a hedgerow 20yrs apart

The same hedge line from a different angle, just before planting and 20 years later

Plants, lichen, and fungi are also integral to hedgerow ecosystems and the earthy banks and verges below a hedge are wonderful refuges for wildflowers and pollinators. Bluebells, stitchwort, common vetch, and primroses provide a rich source of nectar for emerging beetles and bumblebees. Many bumblebee species nest in hedge banks as do a number of solitary bees such as Gooden’s nomad bee and the hairy footed-flower bee. Hedges usually consist of a diverse range of native trees and shrubs like oak, dogwood, field maple, elder, hazel and hawthorn together with some climbers like dog rose and honeysuckle. These all support pollinating insects and / or have nuts and berries in autumn and winter.  

For landowners, hedgerows have significant welfare benefits for livestock as they can provide wind protection and shade. Hedgerows that also include full size trees at regular intervals provide an even better resource as they can boost the number of beneficial pollinators for crops and make room for predators for natural pest management. Wider and taller hedges increase habitat, and it is recommended that hedges are cut less regularly, ideally once every three years, and much later in the season, in late January or February, to maximise their wildlife friendly potential. Lack of management can lead to gappy hedges that are no longer stock proof. The traditional skill of hedgelaying has seen a revival in recent years and forms an important part our cultural history. A laid hedge can form a much stronger and more resilient boundary as well as looking beautiful in the landscape.  

A newly laid hedge will spring back with growth in the first year.

For further information please see:

The Hedgelink Hub  

Twitter | X Hedge Legend - Fav Colour Green

By Rachel Embury




Cookie Notice

This website uses cookies  to enhance your experience using the website. Find out more

Back to top