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Hedgerows an Important Wildlife Habitat.

Updated on August 6, 2015

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

Hedgerows are an integral part of the English landscape snaking across the countryside dividing arable fields and pastures along with marking the boundaries of country lanes. They act as linear ribbons of woodland as far as the wildlife is concerned. The importance of hedgerows to wildlife is emphasised by the names of plants and creatures for example, hedge sparrow, hedgehog, hedge woundwort, hedgerow crane's-bill, hedge parsley, hedge bindweed, hedge mustard and hedge bedstraw.

hedge bindweed climbing upon Rosebay willowherb

Hedge bindweed climbing up willow herb, as its name suggests it is often found adorning hedgerows.Photograph by D.A.L.
Hedge bindweed climbing up willow herb, as its name suggests it is often found adorning hedgerows.Photograph by D.A.L.

Arboreal highways

All the previous species and a plethora of others use hedgerows for food, shelter, protection,ans as a means of conveying themselves from one area to another, in the manner of arboreal highways. An ivy grown hedge with a profusion of twigs on the floor makes an ideal habitat for small mammals and an innumerable number of insects. Ivy often embraces hedgerows giving cover for creatures during the winter months when they require it the most.

In northern England hawthorn with its repellent thorns make up a good percentage of the hedgerows. Hedgerows that are allowed to grow naturally with a minimum of maintenance hold far more wildlife than their well trimmed and manicured poor relations.

Many of our hedgerows are interrupted by deciduous trees and shrubs which add diversity to the hedgerow and adds to the numbers of wildlife that occur there. Many species of moths are associated with hedgerows such as the brimstone, yellow carpet, magpie, light emerald, swallow tail, mottled umber,and common footman.

Top. Brimstone Moth.Middle hedgerow with trees. Bottom Rosa regusa hips

The brimstone moth is associated with hedgerows. Photograph courtesy of Jeffdelonge wikipedia.
The brimstone moth is associated with hedgerows. Photograph courtesy of Jeffdelonge wikipedia.
hedgerows with trees make an ideal habitat for many animals. Photograph by D.A.L.
hedgerows with trees make an ideal habitat for many animals. Photograph by D.A.L.
This rose hip of Rosa regusa is quite common place in local hedgerows.Photograph by D.A.L.
This rose hip of Rosa regusa is quite common place in local hedgerows.Photograph by D.A.L.

Briars

Briars climb through the hedgerow brightening the waysides with their delicate coloured petals before producing the hips that are so rich in Vitamin C. Honeysuckle is another plant that will bind its way through the hedgerow producing nectar rich flowers which are succeeded by red berries that contain the seed. The anfractuous stems of the hedge bindweed also adorn hedgerows in late summer producing the large trumpet like flowers which are much visited by a plethora of insects and at night by long tongued moths.

At this time of the year, as summer slides slowly towards autumn the hedgerows are blessed with an explosion of ripening fruits. The sharp taloned brambles produce the berries which are sought after by humans and manyspecies of wildlife, as does the charming rowan along with the hawthorn that produces their red haws called locally "pixie apples", despite their diminutive size they a eaten eagerly by many species of birds, particularly thrushes, and small mammals rely heavily upon them. They gorge themselves happily, they sense that winter is just around the corner and weight needs to gained in order to survive the coldest months.

In the rich embrace of the woodland the tiny wren makes his living, slipping deeper into the gloom as he quests for insects. The racy smell of the hedge bottom with its leaf litter and twigs the hedgehog starts his nocturnal wanderings with a silent dedication, poking his pig-like nose into all manner of places. Shrews are engaging little animals constantly on the move in search of food. However, during the winter the shrew is capable of attaining a torpid state where the rise and fall of the temperature does not seem to affect this sound little slumberer.

Top. Shrew. Middle and bottom Honeysuckle

The engaging little shrew is constantly on the move using hedgerows to go about his business in relative safety. Photograph by courtesy of Sjonge. Wikipedia.
The engaging little shrew is constantly on the move using hedgerows to go about his business in relative safety. Photograph by courtesy of Sjonge. Wikipedia.
Honeysuckle flowers provide a rich source of nectar, they appear in hedgerows during mid summer. Photograph by D.A.L.
Honeysuckle flowers provide a rich source of nectar, they appear in hedgerows during mid summer. Photograph by D.A.L.
They are succeeded by bright berries that protect the seeds.Photograph by D.A.L.
They are succeeded by bright berries that protect the seeds.Photograph by D.A.L.

Concealing wildlife

During the winter nest are exposed that were well concealed by the summer foliage. The occupants that enjoyed the security of that leafy serenity are long gone. I have often happened upon an old nest that contained half eaten haws[The fruit of hawthorn}, and other morsels of food adorning the interior, a sure sign that a small creature such as the wood mouse has taken its fancy to this vacant nest, so as to eat its wares concealed and in comfort.

Animals convey themselves great distances along the hedgerows, whereas these wary venturers would more than likely succumb to predators taking alternative routes to such destinations.

In the UK. we have lost a great percentage of our hedgerows over the last 50 years or so. Many of these were on agricultural land has they made way for large farm machinery such as combine harvesters. It has long been recognized by conservation groups the importance of hedgerows to wildlife In 1997 the Government passed the Hedgerow Regulations Act. Statutory Instrument No 1160, which came into force on June the first 1997.

The authorities decided on a criteria which defined Important Hedgerows.Two of these state that the hedgerow has a continuous length of , or, exceeding 20 metres , or that at each end meets, {whether by intersection or junction} another hedgerow.

The Regulations do not apply to a hedgerow within the curtilage of, or, marking the boundary of the curtilage of, a dwelling house.

The hedgerow is also deemed important {thus protected} if it has existed for 30 or more years. Any such hedgerows deemed by the Regulations as being important cannot be removed without a signed {by the Authorities} a "Removal Notice" being attained. The local planning Authority has to decide on each application which may be allowed or denied depending on their findings.

Obviously the Hedgerows Regulations Act is far to lengthy to go into great detail within the confines of this hub and is mentioned to illustrate the importance now being put on hedgerows as a wildlife habitat, throughout the land. {The Regulations only apply to England and Wales in the U.K.}

Top.Haws the fruit of Hawthorn. Bramble below.

The Haws the fruit of the hawthorn are turning nicely, soon they will be gorged upon by a diverse number of creatures. Photograph by D.A.L.
The Haws the fruit of the hawthorn are turning nicely, soon they will be gorged upon by a diverse number of creatures. Photograph by D.A.L.
Black berries are eagerly sought after by humans and animals alike. Photograph by D.A.L.
Black berries are eagerly sought after by humans and animals alike. Photograph by D.A.L.

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    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      2uesday your welcome. Good luck with it. I am sure you will succeed.

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 7 years ago

      Thank you, your reply is helpful. There is an exsisting hedge behind the brambles but I will try to make my side of the fence creature and bird friendly.

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi 2uesday,thank you for reading and for your appreciated commnts. Bramble is fine for many kinds of wildlife. You will need to control it, as it may become invasive in time. Hedges to plant would include hawthorn and wild rose. It depends on the room you have available for they need to grow bushy. Trimmed hedges are little use to wildlife. Honey suckle flowers are a great source of nectar for moths. An untidy area is beneficial to insects. Where there are insects other wildlife will follow. Good luck and best wishes to you.

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 7 years ago

      Nice to read this D.A.L. the photos are very good too. It makes me wonder if I should try to create a type of hedgerow. On one side of my allotment is a boundary fence, in front of it is a tangle of mainly blackberry brambles. Will it be better for the wildlife to leave this area as it is,or to tidy some parts of it and plant other species for the birds and creatures? A lot of areas of brambles have been cleared on the site as more people want allotments. I would be happy to plant something like a wild rose, a dog rose and honeysuckle if it helped redress the balance, or do I leave well alone?

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Varenya thank you so much for your encouraging and kind comments.

    • Varenya profile image

      Varenya 7 years ago

      Thanks D.A.L. your photos are always lovable! It is also always so pleasant to read about wild life's descriptions! Nice work, really!

    • D.A.L. profile image
      Author

      Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Sabu your welcome thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. Best wishes to you my friend.

      drbj, thank you once more for your kind and encouraging comments. best wishes to you.

      timorous, you so right about the conservation side. Thank you for reading and for leaving your appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

      jand , Your local bat group will advise you. As you say they are fully protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Unless they are in a living room {bedroom etc} you are not allowed to interfere with them in any way. Good luck and best wishes to you.

    • profile image

      jandee 7 years ago

      Loved reading D.A.L.I liked the shrew picture..

      Wonder if you know how to entice bats to move out of house(protected),jandee

    • timorous profile image

      Tim Nichol 7 years ago from Me to You

      It's always fascinating observing nature, doing as it wishes without our interference.

      Good to see a degree of hedgerow preservation has been instituted as well.

      Thanks D.A.L.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks, DAL, for the exquisite photos - as always. And, of course, the narrative.

    • sabu singh profile image

      sabu singh 7 years ago

      During one of my visits to the UK, I noticed the fine hedgerows along the country roads although we did not stop to observe the life within. Thank you for this informative Hub and the photographs.

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