A Wild Maidenhead Biodiversity Action Plan project - 2019-2023
What's the problem?
Hedgerows have been removed from the countryside on an industrial scale and many remaining ones are so badly managed that their value to wildlife is much reduced.
This loss is one of the factors which has caused the decline of many plant and animal species traditionally associated with farmland. Reasons for hedge loss include changes in farming practices, development, damage caused by straw and stubble burning (banned since 1992), spray drift, neglect and indiscriminate trimming. In some cases, lack of management has led to hedges being reclassified as lines of trees or gappy shrubs. These relict hedgerows, although registered as lost, are still of value to birds and other wildlife.
What benefits do hedgerows provide?
Hedgerows make an immense contribution in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. As a semi-natural habitat they provide food, shelter, nesting sites and safe movement routes for birds and small mammals. As a linear feature they provide a means for bats and some birds to move from roosts to feeding sites, as they are reluctant to fly across open fields.
The shrub layer provides a site for butterflies and moths to feed and lay their eggs, with the caterpillars then able to feed on the leaves as they hatch, but many other invertebrates depend on either the shrub layer, verge or hedgerows trees and hence form the basis of the whole ecosystem.
For climate hedgerows are able to absorb carbon, including the soil layer, as well as act as a barrier to soil erosion and slow water flow and hence reduce the impact of flooding.
Other uses of hedgerows today include screening unsightly development, providing privacy to homes, and as a source of berries for jams and material for various crafts like walking stick making. Cattle, sheep and other livestock will often search out particular leaves and flowers from hedgerows to supplement their diet or to self-treat ailments.
What are we planning?
Wild Maidenhead wants to undertake area-wide surveys of hedgerows, ranging from basic assessments to detailed species identification and recording. Then we want to fill gaps in hedges and improve diversity of farmland hedgerows. We have volunteer working parties who will be undertaking the surveys and helping farmers with projects which improve hedgerow quality and extent.
We are also looking at the potential for collecting local tree saplings (or whips) to supplement hedge planting. Perhaps you have a few in your garden?
What have we done?
We have begun to survey hedgerows in the Wild Maidenhead area. They are predominantly poor in species richness, being mainly Hawthorn and Blackthorn. The species rich hedgerows found require further surveys.
What do we need you to do?
You can join the team who will be undertaking this work over the coming years. Please click on the button below to let us know that you are interested.