A Survey of Warsop's Hedgerows
Our survey tells us that only 38% of Warsop’s hedges are a minimum of 1.5 metres high, 1 metre wide and a maximum of 20% gapped. Similar results in other hedgerow surveys in other areas suggest that an average of 41% of hedges are in favourable condition. The methods used to manage our hedgerows could contribute to improving these figures.
Farmers responsible for 60% of England’s agricultural land now follow Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship scheme . The Entry Level Stewardship scheme provides payments for complying with sufficient measures from a list of options. The rules applying to hedgerows include maintaining them to a height of not less than 1.5 metres, not cultivating or applying fertilisers, manures or pesticides within 2 m of the centre of the hedge, cutting no more than once every 2 calendar years (and not cutting all hedgerows in the same year) and not cutting during the bird breeding season (1 March to 31 August). Leaving up to 6 metres of environment buffer strip alongside a hedge is also included in the scheme. Most of Warsop parish also falls within the Sherwood Target Area for Higher Level Stewardship were farmers can access finding for meeting specific biodiversity, historic, environmental and access requirements.
Other bodies also offer advice. The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) recommends that hedges should be cut only in alternate years. This reduces time and expense for the farmer and is better for the wildlife than annual cutting as berry crops are increased because some species only flower on second year growth. In addition disturbance to wildlife is also reduced.
The Countryside Commission’s Hedgerow Incentive Scheme (1992) and Defra’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme (2003) advocate waiting until early in the new year before cutting in order to maximise the food value of the hedge and to prevent disturbing nesting birds. They also recommended that the hedge is cut no more than twice every five years with the height kept to a minimum of 2 metres.
Max Hooper suggested that the ideal habitat for wildlife is an unmanaged
hedge, around 4 metres high and 4 metres wide with brambles along its
he recommended a more realistic compromise where a narrower hedge width
of 2 metres width would be acceptable.
One of Warsop’s few well-managed 4 metre tall hedges between Broomhill Lane and Sod Wall Plantation
Much of the biodiversity of hedges is associated with hedgerow trees, so good hedgerow management involves taking care to prevent young trees being stopped by mechanical hedge trimmers. It has been calculated that, across Great Britain, a further 15,000 to 20,000 new hedgerow trees need to be established each year just to keep the population stable.
New plants for planting or gapping up a hedge should be obtained from local provenance suppliers who sell plants from stock that occurs naturally in the local area.
All this guidance on good practice is fine in theory but in the real world hedge maintenance is always a compromise. Even with the relatively small amount of hedge trimming that Warsop Footpaths & Countryside Group complete in order to keep rights-of-way open we sometimes have to cut when there is fruit on the hedge plants or birds may be nesting. Farmers face many more complex issues and we should be grateful to those who manage their hedgerows in a sensitive way.
A standard tree in a hedgerow near Upper Cross Lane