Sid Valley Biodiversity Group Report; saving the area’s declining hedges

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 September 2020

A neglected hedge. Picture: Ed Dolphin

A neglected hedge. Picture: Ed Dolphin

Ed Dolphin

The hedgerows of the Sid Valley are wonderful, but we are losing them steadily; that is the finding of a survey undertaken by Sidmouth Arboretum.

Members and friends of Sidmouth Arboretum have been surveying a representative sample of the valley’s 500 km of agricultural hedgerow, from Salcombe Hill and Muttersmoor right up to Putts Corner.

The survey recorded the condition of the hedges, and the range of woody species, including the large trees that are such a feature of the Devon countryside. It also looked at the range of herbaceous plants growing under the hedges and included research into the fascinating history of our hedges.

Our hedgerows make a valuable contribution to the look of the valley and its wildlife. They shelter many wildflower species, and that supports a myriad of small creatures from insects to birds and small mammals. Importantly, the hedgerows act as wildlife corridors allowing the creatures to connect and interbreed to maintain healthy populations.

The valley has many kilometres of good quality hedges, but a lot of hedges are in a sad decline. Some hedges are not being maintained, they either have large bare gaps or they are choked with brambles and bracken. In those that are maintained, we are seeing a steady loss of the mature trees. When hedges were maintained by hand, mature trees were encouraged to grow at regular intervals as a source of timber. This is more difficult to keep going with modern flailing of the hedges. A century ago, there were more than 100,000 mature trees in the valley’s hedgerows, now we are down to about 32,000, and many of those are coming to the end of their lives, because of age or diseases such as Ash Dieback.

All is not doom and gloom. Members of the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group have established links with local landowners, and they are showing a commitment to reinvigorating our hedgerow stock, and it is hoped that young trees will be actively protected to allow them to grow.

A copy of the survey report can be seen on the Biodiversity Group’s new website www.sidvalleybiodiversity.org.uk

ED DOLPHIN


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