The value of hedgerows
Almost daily, we hear about the loss of habitat, which is often highlighted with shocking figures as to the amount lost in particular areas. So it was good to learn more about a project in North Wales. The project is located at Foel Farm in Eryri (Snowdonia) and involved 40 volunteers who have planted 3km (1.8 miles) of hedgerow to connect areas of woodland.
The result is being called a "superhighway" that will enable birds, bats and a wide range of mammals and insects to move and live within the hedge itself and the woodland it connects. In addition to being able to move along the newly planted habitat, many bird species will make the shrubs their home. In this location, it will also help the local livestock gain some shelter from the sometimes harsh Welsh weather while also acting as a carbon capture facility, thus benefitting everyone.
The story of the work undertaken by National Trust Wales, Natural Resources Wales, Eryri National Park and Llais y Goedwig should also act as a reminder to all of us as to the value of hedgerows. The more established and mature, the better, as they provide so much to the local bird population, amongst others.
I know from personal experience what a mature hedge can do when you can also offer food and water alongside. My previous address was blessed with a number of tall and very well established hedges, so when we began feeding the birds close by, the birds quickly saw the benefits of being able to feed and shelter in relative safety. Each time we put out live mealworms, the area would be filled with good numbers of starling, blackbird, blue tit and robins, all dashing back and forward from the hedge. The most significant achievement had to be the coaxing of a flock of around 30-40 starlings from their regular feeding station in a garden a short distance away. I say "coax" when all we did was put food out.
The sound of a flock of starlings all chattering in a tall hedge was something else and proved the value of keeping the hedge, despite our neighbour's efforts to cut it down when we weren't looking - but that's another story.
What this, and the story of the work taking place in Wales, is the enormous value of hedgerows and how, over the coming months, when we all get back into our gardens, we need to tend them and look after them. Since the 1950s, the Woodland Trust estimate we've lost 118,000 miles of hedgerow, mainly due to changes in agricultural practices. Those of us with suburban gardens can do little about this, but we can protect the hedges that surround our own gardens. And if you haven't got a hedge, maybe that could be a project for 2023? Once established, you won't regret it, and neither will the birds!
© Phil Pickin