Hedges on edges

by Francesca Baker

Hedgerows on edges. Edge rows. More than mere markers. Corridors of connectivity line the fields and paths we and wildlife wander. They are shelter from storms. Havens and homes. Ecosystems for the environment that lives in their leaves. Humans and animals forage for food within, picking berries for a quick morsel, a tasty pie. Livestock linger at hedgerows, wondering what’s beyond as they nestle in. Pollinators pick at the bustling buds that brim on their leaves in fair spring. Good for the air, good for the eyes, good for all who wander our country paths. Woody wonders. Hedgerows on edges.  

Before I started this project, I had not really considered the wonder of hedgerows. Simple markers on our country walks. Stopping me getting to where I want to be fast. Demarcation for grumpy landowners who want to keep their space within, rather than let us wander it. Doing 26 Habitats, I discovered so much more. As a way of connecting people and places with nature, they have been around for centuries, and when looked after offer so much. Whether low rows of leafy hedges, or punctuated by tall trees, they are home to a habitat we must keep thriving.  

I don’t know much about hedgerows. And desktop research isn’t as fun. My boyfriend and I went foraging in Westwell. Us and some friends and a group of folk from a local walking group. We rummaged for berries, scrabbled for nettles, explored for hogweed. Getting the fresh air on a summer evening was a delight I’ve missed during dark winter months. Apparently, hedgerows are a hive of goodies. 

What will I do? I’ll go pick berries, encouraging more growth. I’ll cook that pie and relish in its flavour. I’ll watch out for birds nestling in the leaves, and see voles scrolling underneath. Whether managed or relict, they contain a rich abundance of wildlife that I love to see on my rambles. I’ll see them as waypoints on my wanders that give much more than a marker en route.  

The Woodland Trust ask us to be ‘wood wise.’ And now I’m wise to hedgerows. The importance of conserving our hedgerow heritage.  

And never again will I sigh at the hedgerow blocking my path.  

Hedgerows are an iconic part of the traditional UK landscape and an essential habitat. But we’re losing them. Take a look at The Wildlife Trusts’ hedgerow page to find out what you can do to help manage a hedgerow for wildlife.

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