It’s the time of year when hedges and trees are surveyed and maintained at our sites. Hedgerows are key semi-natural habitats for wildlife and so it’s important that we manage them well. Last week I and a NAT trustee attended a special hedgerow walk organised by FWAG at a farm in Great Witchingham (see above image), to learn more about how we can manage our hedges better for wildlife. It was a really useful morning, and showed us how small changes in the way we cut, the times that we cut – and what we should leave – can support greater biodiversity.
On NAT sites we already leave hedge cutting until February – late enough to give birds and other wildlife maximum opportunity to feast on fruit and berries and shelter overwinter, but early enough to avoid interfering with nest-building. Current legislation bans hedge-cutting from the first of March.
Recent research carried out by The Centre for Hydrology & Ecology found that reducing cuts to once every three years increased benefits for wildlife because most hedgerow species only flower and fruit on wood that is at least two years old. At our main sites we prune on two and three year rotations depending on our farm agreements, only cutting a percentage of the hedges each year. Some hedges close to paths need to be cut more frequently to allow safe access along paths – but we will be reviewing hedge management at each of our sites to see where we can reduce frequency of pruning for the benefit of wildlife.
If you’re interested in practical conservation for wildlife and would like to get involved with NAT’s work as a volunteer, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.