Hedgerows a habitat for wildlife.

Hedgerows are an integral part of the English landscape snaking across the countryside, dividing arable fields and pastures, along with marking the boundaries of country lanes. They act as linear ribbons of woodland as far as wildlife is concerned. The importance of hedgerows to wildlife is emphasized by the names of plants and creatures, for example, hedge sparrow {dunnock}, hedgehog, hedge woundwort, hedgerow crane's-bill, hedge parsley, hedge bindweed, hedge mustard and hedge bedstraw.

Hedge bindweed foliage.


The creatures--

Hedgehogs, wood mice, bank voles, other small mammals and a plethora of birds use hedgerows for food, shelter, protection and as a means of conveying themselves from one area to another in the manner of arboreal highways. An ivy grown hedge with a profusion of twigs on the floor makes an ideal habitat for small mammals and an innumerable number of insects. Ivy often embraces hedgerows giving cover for creatures during the winter months when they require it most.

Below Hawthorn hedgerows are a safe haven for wildlife



In northern England hawthorn with its repellent thorns make up a good percentage of the hedgerows. Hedgerows that are allowed to grow naturally with a minimum of maintenance hold far more wildlife than their well trimmed manicured poor relations.

Many of our hedgerows are interrupted by deciduous trees and shrubs which add diversity to the hedgerow and adds to the number of wildlife that occur there. Many species of moths are associated with hedgerows such as brimstone, yellow carpet, magpie, emerald, swallow tail, mottled umber and common footman.

  Below--hedgerows with trees add to the diversity



Briars climb through the hedgerow brightening the waysides with their delicate coloured petals before producing the hips that are so rich in vitamin C. Honeysuckle is another plant that will bind its way through the hedgerows producing nectar rich flowers which are succeeded by red berries that contain the seeds. Many long tongued moths visit the flowers.

The anfractuous stems of the hedge bindweed also adorn hedgerows in late summer producing the large trumpet like flowers which are much visited by a plethora of insects and at night by the long tongued moths.

As summer slides into autumn the hedgerows are blessed with an explosion of ripening fruits. The sharp taloned brambles produce the berries which are much sought after by humans and many species of wildlife, as does the charming rowan tree along with hawthorn which produces the red fruits known as haws called by country folk as "pixie apples" and "Cuckoo beads". Despite their diminutive size they are eaten regularly and eagerly by many species of birds, particularly thrushes, and small mammals rely heavily upon them. They gorge themselves happily, they sense that winter is around the corner and weight needs to be gained in order to survive the coldest months.

Below top--rowan berries   bottom---haws the fruit of hawthorn  both these types of fruit are an important source of food for wildlife. 


In the rich embrace---

In the rich embrace of the woodland the tiny wren makes his living, slipping deeper into the gloom as he quests for insects. The racy smell of the hedge bottom with its leaf litter and twigs, the hedgehog starts his nocturnal wanderings with a silent dedication, poking his pig-like nose into all manner of places. Shrews are engaging little animals constantly on the move in search for food. However, during the winter the shrew is capable of attaining a torpid state where the rise and fall of the temperatures does not seem to affect this sound little slumberer.

During the winter nests are exposed that were concealed by the summer foliage. The occupants that enjoyed the security of that leafy serenity are long gone. I have often happened upon old nests that contained half -eaten haws and other morsels of food adorning the interior, a sure sign that a small creature such as the wood mouse has taken its fancy to the vacant nest so as to eat its wares concealed and in comfort.

Animals convey themselves great distances along the hedgerows, whereas these wary venturers would more than likely succumb to predators taking alternative routes to such destinations.

Loss of hedgerows

In the U.K. we have lost a great percentage of our hedgerows over the last 50 years or so. Many of these were on agricultural land as they made way for heavy machinery such as combine harvesters. It has long been recognized by conservationists the importance of hedgerow to wildlife. In 1997 the Government passed the Hedgerows Regulation Act, Statutory Instrument Number 1160, which came into force on June the first 1997.

The authorities decided on a criteria which defined important hedgerows. two of these state that the hedgerow has a continuous length of, or exceeding 20 meters, or that at each end meets, {whether by intersection or junction} another hedgerow.

The regulations do not apply to a hedgerow within the curtilage of, or, marking the boundary of the curilage of a dwelling house.

The hedgerow is also deemed important {thus protected} if it has existed for 30 or more years. Any such hedgerow deemed by the Regulations as being important cannot be  removed without a signed { by the Authorities}  " Removal Notice" being attained. The local planning Authority has to decide on each application which may be allowed or denied depending on their findings.

The Hedgerow Regulations Act is far to lengthy to go in to great detail here and is mentioned to illustrate the importance now being put on hedgerows as a wildlife habitat throughout the land. {The Regulations only apply to England and Wales}.




Typical hedgerows


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