Celebrating National Hedgerow Week

May 7 2024

Although often overlooked, hedgerows are countryside heroes, providing numerous benefits to people and nature. With the majority of England’s landscapes having continuously had hedgerows for over a thousand years, it would be easy to take them for granted. But, at Hampshire Forest Partnership, we’re passionate about looking after our hedgerows, and planting new ones. Read on to find out why we think hedgerows are so great.

Connectivity is key

It’s crucial that animals can move around freely to find the resources they need, but with ever-increasing space taken up by development and agriculture, this is becoming more difficult. With so much of our woodlands and nature reserves now existing as small islands in a predominantly human landscape, hedgerows act as connectors between them, building a vital network. This system of hedgerows enables animals to pass safely from one habitat to another to feed, breed or find a new home, while under the cover of the hedgerow and protected from predators. Better connectivity also helps migratory species as they make their seasonal journeys and can help species adapt to climate change by supporting their movements to more suitable locations.

photo of green landscape
Hedgerows create green networks across landscapes. Credit: Jim Champion/Flickr

Hero habitats

Along with helping animals move between woodlands, rivers, grasslands and other wild spaces, hedgerows form amazing habitats in their own right. Healthy hedgerows formed of diverse species can provide food, shelter and other resources to a vast array of wildlife across the year. Insects, birds, amphibians and mammals all rely on the flowers, fruits and shelter that hedgerows offer. The hazel dormouse is one of many of our protected species that needs hedgerows to thrive, and the loss of hedgerows has contributed to dormice becoming isolated in woodland ‘islands’.

The hazel dormouse is a protected species because it is estimated that the population has halved since 1995. Credit: Frank Vassen/Flickr

Pollution solution

It’s not just wildlife that benefit from hedgerows – we owe hedgerows for helping to remove pollutants from the air, reducing run-off from roads (such as oil, as well as tyre and brake wear and tear) entering rivers and other watercourses, buffering towns and villages from noisy traffic, increasing organic matter and carbon storage in our soils, and cooling the air along roads. These benefits are only going to become more important with the effects of a changing climate.

hedgerow along road
Hedgerows along roads provide a wealth of environmental and social benefits. Credit: Neil Howard/Flickr

Agricultural asset

Hedgerows are also champions on farms, where they stabilise soils and act as effective windbreaks, protecting crops and livestock from harsh conditions. Because they attract beneficial wildlife, hedgerows can also improve crop pollination and help control pests, which in turn reduces the need for pesticides. Hedgerow trees can also provide shade for livestock in hot summers and shelter in cold winters, and browsing the leaves on hedgerow trees can improve livestock gut health and immune function and reduce harmful parasites.

Livestock benefit from healthy hedgerows on farms in many different ways. Credit: Lawrence Wright/Flickr

We hope you agree that hedgerows truly are fantastic in so many ways. Despite this, we have lost half of the UK’s hedges since the second world war – that’s nearly one million kilometres of hedgerow. We are aiming to reinstate or create new hedgerows across Hampshire for people and nature, and to do this, we are providing free hedge plants and hedgerow trees to farmers, landowners and communities across Hampshire. Applications are now open for hedgerow and hedgerow tree planting in winter 2024/25 – complete the Project Enquiry Form if you are interested in applying for funding or finding out more information about one of our current support schemes.