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Keen conservationists and those with nature close to their hearts are being given the chance to take proactive steps towards protecting hedgerows in the West Midlands.
The Forestry Commission in the Midlands is running a hedgelaying course led by an experienced trainer. Aimed at equipping beginners with all the appropriate knowledge and expertise, the two-day course will run from Sence Valley Forest Park in Leicestershire on 13 and 14 November.
Research released by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) earlier this year stated that the overall length of England’s managed hedgerows fell by nearly 16,000 miles between 1998 and 2007.
Hedgerows are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat for conservation action and the art of hedgelaying contributes to this by maintaining the healthy condition of hedges.
Community and Recreation Ranger for National Forest Area Alison Wilkes explained:
“Hedgerows are the most widespread semi-natural habitat in England, critical to the existence of numerous plants and animals. They provide homes and food to threatened species such as the song thrush and the honey bee.
“The countryside art of hedgelaying is a traditional management technique which maintains hedgerows as healthy habitats and wildlife corridors.
“There are also regional variations of the art, for example, traditionally in the Midlands many hedges were originally designed to keep bigger animals like bullocks penned in, whereas in Wales the styles evolved for keeping sheep.
“We will be teaching participants a range of skill sets working with different tools, such as the technique of ‘pleaching’. This typically involves splitting hedge stems in two with an axe, saw or a traditional tool called a billhook and staking them into place at a 45 degree angle with long lengths of hazel called heatherings.
“These are then twisted together to bind the newly layed hedge together. It’s a fascinating first step into practical conservation for people of all ages and abilities – no experience required!”
As a mixture of woodland, scrub and grassland, hedgerows contain a wealth of different plant and animal species, and across large swathes of the countryside are an essential habitat and refuge for wildlife.
They are also highly valued for playing a key role in preventing soil loss and reducing pollution, and for their potential to regulate water supply and to reduce flooding. Many hedges are lost not only by removal but by a lack of management which sees the habitat degenerate into lines of trees and shrubs.
The two day course runs from 9am to 4pm on both days and costs £60 per person. Booking is essential and can be done by contacting the West Midlands Forestry Commission office on 01889 586593 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the National Forest and the Forestry Commission in the Midlands, visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westmidlands or www.forestry.gov.uk/eastmidlands
Notes to editors
- Sence Valley is part of The National Forest on the A447 Ravenstone Road just North of Ibstock. Ibstock and Heather are the nearest towns or villages.
- Hedgerows which grow on or adjacent to agricultural, common and forestry land, horse and donkey paddocks, nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are now protected via The Hedgerows Regulations 1997. Some date back hundreds of years, and others grow on earth banks built more than 4,000 years ago by Bronze Age Britons.
- The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside.
Alison Wilkes, Community and Recreation Ranger for National Forest Beat, West Midlands Forest District, 01889 586 593