Following concerns over a 50% decline in hedgerows nationwide since the Second World War, the ‘Helping Hedgerows' project comes after a two-year nationwide survey to protect this vital part of the canal landscape.
The 600-mile survey, made possible by £50,000 funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery, was the biggest ever health check of the nation's waterside hedgerows. It identified areas for improvement and where they needing ‘gapping up' to help provide important nature corridors for a diverse range of wildlife.
In need of some TLC
Many miles of the most common hedge species, hawthorn, were identified as in need of some TLC, along with other varieties of ash, blackthorn, elder and hazel.
Training will also be provided for staff and volunteers in hedge laying and Trust volunteers will be on the canal towpath planting new species and repairing historic hedgerows which have been a canal side feature for over 200 years to provide a greater variety of food and shelter for wildlife.
Stuart Moodie, national ecologist for the Canal & River Trust said: “Hedgerows are more than just important features in the landscape; they are lifelines for some of our most threatened wildlife. The growing threat of habitat loss has meant that many of our most at risk species, from dormice and hedgehogs, to birds like blackbirds, thrushes and tree sparrows will all benefit from this project.
“Canals and its hedgerows act like natures highways and have the potential to allow safe routes to travel, collect food and find shelter to help them survive. Thanks to this fantastic support from the People's Postcode Lottery, we'll be able to run volunteer hedge laying and planting days along our canals and begin to reinvigorate our hedgerows.”
Many stretches of hedgerow are the canals oldest established habitat originally planted by 18th century canal builders to protect the towpath from cattle and other livestock. Changes to farming practices in the UK saw traditional hedges removed or replaced with barbed wire fences.
However, the survey also revealed good progress in recent years with over half the hedgerows across the country recorded as good condition and 25% of hedges recorded were thought to be less than 10 years old.
Clara Govier, head of charities at People's Postcode Lottery, comments: “The canals are such an important part of our national identity, so I am delighted that players of People's Postcode Lottery are able to support this important project and ensure that the nation's hedgerows are looked after.”