Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hedges & Funds Management

One of the most annoying sights in late summer is that of a hedgerow being flailed to within an inch of its life, regardless of the loss of food for the millions of recently fledged juvenile birds of countless species through the late summer/early autumn period. Billions of berries and insect larvae that could contribute to fattening up residents and migratory species alike consigned to the ditch for no other reason than neatness.

I can hear the arguments, 'if we don't cut it early the ground gets wet, the weather gets in the way... blah blah blah' well what if you could reduce the cutting from an annual event to one in every three years? A third of your cutting costs and you get to benefit wildlife at the same time - win/win they call it in business. Not only do your costs go down but you get to demonstrate how farmers really are the custodians of our countryside as the NFU et al regularly claim.

Well those farmers that cut annually (and not all do) can now do just that, according to research just published from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology wildlife would receive a huge boost from a 'one in three' cutting regime. It's not rocket science but what's needed is an awareness campaign from our conservation and farming organizations to promote this to farmers and encourage more to change their practices. Helping to educate Joe Public that an uncut hedge is not an eyesore but a key wildlife habitat wouldn't go amiss too.


Fleetwood Birder said...

Hello Alan, Under Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) farmers are encouraged to cut there hedges either every other year (better than every year) or every three years. They receive points/£s towards there ELS target for carrying out this work. I am sorry iof you are already aware of this. If not have a look at Natural England's website for a full explanation of the scheme. It is bread and butter for me as I help farmers complete applications, but I didn't want to write a dissertation on ELS here! But, you're right the results of cutting every three years are tremendous. Cheers, Seumus

Stevie Evans said...

A Thought provoking post & link...
Can already see the benefits in farmland bird numbers due to various schemes close to Durham City.
A lot the time hedges seem only to serve to mark a boundary
There's simply too much Un-necessary & systematic "tidy-ing up" in the countryside..... & local nature reserves for that matter !
Hopefully as you suggest, this mindset can be changed in time.

Killy Birder said...

Interesting post.
I certainly think 'Joe Public' needs educating, although whether many would open their ears is perhaps debatable. Over the years I've seen many hedges bordering gardens hacked to bits or even ripped out altogether. What is the replacement? Often ugly wooden fences! The council doesn't set a good example either IMO.

My own ex neighbours (now deceased)wanted the trees taken down. Why? To quote 'because we don't like trees'. The trees are still here!

alan tilmouth said...

@Seumus, thanks, I was aware of the ELS, just trying to highlight that it could be much better and hopefully get more people to think about it.

Stewart said...

Thats me now standing ona box shouting up the drive! I've said this for millenia! Try Low Steads for example. Farmer gets paid to plant a hedge as a stewardship thing. In this hedge he puts half a dozen standard whitebeams. Fast forward to year two, yes year two and he flails the frigging lot. The standard trees everything chopped to five foot high.. Five years on the hedges now look like wire coat hangers.

Ive heard farmers say they need flailed to keep them thick at the base. LOOK AT THEM! I COULD WALK THROUGH were it not for the fence they had to use to keep the sheep from getting out.

Boulmer is another one. Check out the front at Seaton Point. There isa remnant of hawthorn hedge about a few metres long outside a fence surrounding an arable field. The farmer drives there especially every year to chop it down nice and flush so it looks like the back of our setee!!!

I'm away for some valium...

Mark Mowbray said...

what I can't understand is why farmers always chop the tops off young trees, by trees I mean your oaks, sycamore,etc. and not the hawthorns, elders.

Surely its not difficult to leave the trees to grow into mature specimens. How often do we walk along hedgerows and never come across an old, mature, fully grown tree? I'm sure if we had mature trees we'd be seeing many more birds of prey as well.

abbey meadows said...

The best hedges are between Longhirst and Ulgham where years of opencast mining and the old coal board took over the ownership of the land and left the hedgerows to grow with only an occasional trim to keep it off the road. They are now fine and mature Beech hedges with many semi mature Beeches poking through, a bit like the hedges you see in Perthshire and Dumfries and Galloway. As for well managed mature Hawthorn hedges go no further than Widdrington tip or Linton and the surrounding areas of former opencast land. Eh not like me to get on my soap box!