England’s hedgerows offer a valuable habitat for wildlife, amongst many other benefits, and here in Berkshire we want to work to protect them and create more.
Hedgerows are the vital stitching in the patchwork of our countryside. Not only are they beautiful, with shifting seasonal colours, but they also benefit wildlife and the wider environment. They store carbon and help slow climate change.
We think they need protecting, and we support the Climate Change Committee’s call for a 40% increase in the extent of hedgerows by 2050 to help address the climate emergency.
Hedgerows are man-made and need looking after to survive. From 1870 until 1945 there was very little change in the extent of hedges. Aerial photographs from 1940 show a comprehensive network of hedges across much of the country, even in arable areas. But, between 1950 and 1975, the loss of hedges became one of the most shocking and visible aspects of damage to the English countryside. Since then, tens of thousands of kilometres of hedges have been taken out.
Although many farmers look after their hedges, changes in the nature of farming have been one of the major causes of the disappearance of hedgerows from across the countryside. Roads and development, particularly on the edge of towns and villages, are the two other main causes of hedgerow loss. Even hedgerows that are deemed ‘important’ under the Government’s Hedgerow Regulations can be removed because planning permission for development overrides their protection. In addition, hedgerow management needs to be sympathetically carried out to create rich habitat that a dense hedge provides, and to fulfil their function as field boundaries.
How can you help?
- If you’re worried about the loss of local hedgerows due to development, contact your local authority to check permission has been given
- You can ask your local authority to save existing hedgerows from future development. It can require the developer to do this by attaching conditions to planning permissions
- Organise a hedgerow themed walk with a local expert (e.g. wildlife, hedge layer) or an information evening, the possibilities are endless.
- Read more about what CPRE is doing nationally, and see their handy hedgerow guide, which you can download and take when you next explore the hedgerows and countryside near you.
- Help make us more effective by volunteering to develop and lead on our Hedgerows campaign in Berkshire. Interested? Get in touch with Gloria Keene, our Branch Secretary to find out more.