Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has launched a brand-new ‘Healthy Hedgerows’ app, aimed at farmers and land managers that want to make, or adjust, their hedgerow management plans to grow the healthiest of hedges.
Designed for farmers, landowners and land managers, this free app enables users to find out where hedges are in their natural lifecycle and offers instant feedback on how they can be best managed to ensure their continued health.
Trying to manage hedgerows according to their quite complex lifecycle, especially across a whole farm, is a challenge. This app strips away these complexities and simply asks just six easy questions to rapidly assess each hedge, making the task of creating a farm-scale management plan much easier.
PTES hopes this will help farmers create a thriving network of healthy hedges that criss-cross the UK’s countryside, ensuring these iconic and hugely important habitats continue to benefit both those working on the land, and also the many species that call hedgerows home.
Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Project Officer at PTES, explains: “The quality and structure of hedgerows will deteriorate if they’re managed in the same way for long periods of time, and over time they will eventually be lost. The best way to prevent this is by managing according to their lifecycle, which may include more sensitive trimming, periods of non-intervention and, in time, rejuvenation.
‘Whatever condition a hedge is in, it can be brought back to good health. Our new app pinpoints where it is in its lifecycle and the best management options to adopt to get the most benefit for the farm and its precious wildlife.”
The app is part of the new ‘Close the Gap’ project, a year-long programme focused on achieving bigger, healthier, better-connected hedgerows. It is a partnership project with The Tree Council, Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Moor Trees, University of Reading, Hedgelink, the Royal Parks Guild and the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.
Close the Gap is funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.
Megan continued: “Hedgerows have been a pivotal part of our countryside since the Bronze Age. Tragically we lost about half of our hedgerows last century through incentivised removal, which makes those that remain even more valuable; it is imperative we keep them healthy.
‘Despite historic losses, we still have 500,000km of hedgerow habitat, much of which is incredibly old and has survived hundreds or even thousands of years, thanks to an unbroken chain of care, management and periodic rejuvenation. These have survived through careful management from generation to generation, farmer to farmer, through the centuries. The privilege and responsibility of managing hedgerows now falls to us, as we write the next chapter of their history books.”
Unfortunately, many of our hedges have dropped out of the traditional management cycle, and their structures are slowly declining as a result. Healthy Hedgerows aims to provide free and accessible advice to ease the transition back to lifecycle management, ensuring a long future for our hedgerows and everything that depend on them.
Healthy hedgerows are a huge asset to farmers, as they can provide forage for pollinators, offer crop protection, act as a stock barrier and as livestock shelters. They can also act as a source of income and have additional environmental benefits, acting as carbon stores, flood control, reducing soil erosion and air and water pollution levels.
Healthy hedgerows are wildlife havens; these prime habitats can be home to several endangered species such as hazel dormice, hedgehogs and bats, acting as a safe corridor across the countryside and as a food source. One study found over 2,000 species within just an 85m stretch of hedge!
Megan adds: “The importance of a healthy, connected hedgerow network cannot be overstated, especially when we are seeing so many worrying declines in our native wildlife due to habitat loss. Keeping hedges healthy maximises all these benefits and ensures they thrive for years to come.”
To download the app for free, visit the Apple Store or Google Play and search for Healthy Hedgerows. For those who can’t download the app, more information is available online: hedgerowsurvey.ptes.org/healthy-hedgerows-survey.