Hedges play an important part in the ecosystem of the Sid Valley but what will you find in them?
- Credit: Archant
The volunteers from Sidmouth Arboretum are checking out some of the miles of hedgerow across the valley to assess their health and contribution to our environment, writes Ed Dolphin.
In 2014 Sidmouth Arboretum undertook a survey of the valley’s trees, now they are following up that work with a study of the agricultural hedgerows.
The 2014 survey revealed that, apart from nearly half a million trees, there are more than 300 miles of hedge in the Sid Valley and they play an important role in the valley’s ecosystems.
Using a computerised geographical information system, Arboretum chairman Jon Ball made a random selection of 100 fields across the valley and then selected one side of each field to be surveyed.
With more than half the hedgerows checked, the team has already made some surprising findings.
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So far, a total of nearly six miles of hedge has been looked at and there is a wide variety.
Some of the hedges are very well maintained, including some where the old art of hedge laying has been revived, but there are many beech hedges which have been neglected for years and are no longer hedges but grown out lines of trees.
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In some hedges, selected trees were left to grow as standards at least two hundred years ago, and now those trees are fully mature oaks, ashes, beeches and field maples.
Alongside some of the ancient lanes, you find banked hedges that were planted so long ago they have developed a complex web of plants and wildlife.
There are flowers with quaint common names like navelwort and nipplewort, there are the bright white stars of stitchwort and the sinister hooded spikes of cuckoo pint.
To date, more than 100 species have been recorded, a full list is posted on the Arboretum website.
One sad finding is the extent of Ash Die Back, a disease that threatens the approximately 45,000 ash trees that live in the valley.
Dying and dead trees were found in more than half the hedgerows which had ash in them.
You will find an interim report of the survey’s progress on the Arboretum website, http://sidmoutharboretum.org.uk/.