Hedges & Hedgerows
Wildlife of the Month – Hedges and Hedgerows
Hedges are a lifeline for wildlife: providing habitat, shelter, food and connectivity between habitats. The main structure of a typical hedge is formed from trees and shrubs such as maple, oak, elm, ash with thorn species such as blackthorn and hawthorn dominating. Did you know that there is a slight difference between a hedge and a hedgerow? A hedge is a linear form of woody vegetation, but a hedgerow, is a hedge with standard trees!
Some hedges in our part of Suffolk consist of a hedge with a verge, but some have a ditch too, and together these elements provide suitable places for wildlife to thrive. The flora which lives on the woody vegetation such as lichens and fungi are also an important contributor to the ecosystem as is the flora which survives at the hedge-bottom, hedge banks and hedge verges. In arable environments, the hedge-bottom is especially important as it is a repository for rare arable plants such as spreading hedge-parsley and shepherd’s-needle. Next time you walk past an arable hedge, take a moment and look from the top to the bottom at one point, then walk a bit further and have another look: you will notice how many different species a hedge and it’s ecosystem consists of, from one point to another in just a few steps!
If you have a hedge on your property, it’s really important to maintain it at the right time of year to prevent any harm happening to the wildlife that depends on it. Hedgelink have a great website for the ideal way to plant and maintain them. Their advice for cutting for example is this: "Leave trimming your hedge until late winter. Hedgerow berries and other fruit provide vital food for birds throughout the winter. The earlier you cut, the less food will be available to help wildlife survive through the most hostile time of year. And never cut during the bird breeding season (1 March to 31 August) unless you have to, for safety reasons."
And finally (and excitingly for all us hedge lovers), this year the Tree Council is hosting the first ever National Hedgerow Week! It’s happening from 29th May to 6th June 2021. During this week there will be a launch of the UK’s first ‘All Natural Hedgefunds’ available to help people plant hedgerows, a webinar series helping the public get the most out of their hedges called ‘HedgeTalks’, a ‘Talk To The Hedge’ photo competition and a social media campaign to share your love of hedges named #talktothehedge. See their website for more details, information below.