Ancient and/or Species Rich Hedgerows

Ancient and/or Species Rich Hedgerows - John Miller - Explore Kent

Current Status

An ancient &/or species-rich hedgerow is the term given to a boundary line of trees or shrubs, ancient in origin or of particular value as a habitat for species. They are a specific UK BAP priority habitat valued in Kent for their nature conservation importance. This plan focuses on the conservation of an estimated 1,144 km of ancient &/or species-rich hedgerow in Kent (1995 Kent Wildlife Habitat Survey). All hedgerows are however referred to in recognition of the fact that the future restoration of this habitat is often dependent on the positive management of relic hedgerows and those that might currently be referred to as species-poor.

All hedgerows are recognised for their value to wildlife, providing a corridor along which many species travel and forming an important link between woodland and other areas. They provide a habitat for bats, invertebrates and hedge-bottom plants as well as UK priority species; providing dispersal corridors for dormouse and nesting sites for linnet. The value of hedgerows is significantly improved by the establishment of a permanent grass strip.

The 1980s saw a substantial reduction in hedgerows across the UK largely due to a shift towards agricultural intensification, resulting in the removal of field boundaries to allow the operation of large machinery. Hedgerow loss was also the result of an increase in built development and unsympathetic management of hedgerows.

2000 figures from the DETR reported a significant move towards the improved management of hedgerows across the UK. Between 1990-1998 an estimated 27,100km of hedgerow was planted and 12,800km of derelict hedgerow brought back into positive management by replanting, coppicing and laying. The positive management of hedgerows has gathered momentum in recent years, a trend that this HAP encourages and now seeks to build on to ensure the good condition of ancient &/or species-rich hedgerows for the future of wildlife in Kent.

Factors

Positive factors

  • Agri-environment funding streams are available to farmers and land-owners to support positive land management, and the restoration/preservation of hedgerows. Financial incentives have been available for 15yrs.
  • The focus of payment schemes under the Common Agricultural Policy from 2005 will focus on keeping land in good agricultural and environmental condition. Hedgerows in fields of over 2 hectares will have a 2-metre protection zone, which must not be cultivated or treated with fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides. This will provide the hedge-base protection from arable operations. So as not to discourage new hedgerow planting, hedges established after 1 January 2005 will be exempt from this measure for 5 years. The trimming of hedges will not be allowed between 1 March and 31 July.
  • There are measures to prevent the removal of hedges without permission in 1997 Hedgerow Regulations.

Negative factors

  • The management of arable crops has become more environmentally aware over the last ten years however the use of herbicides/pesticides can have a negative impact on hedgerows bordering land within arable agriculture.
  • The fragmented network of existing hedgerows poses a risk to the species that use these as wildlife corridors, restricting movement from one hedgerow to the next.
  • The over-management of hedgerows, i.e. loss of traditional management techniques in laying and coppicing.
  • The over-management of hedgerows, i.e. sheep grazing out the hedge-base & arable operations damaging roots.
  • Pressures of development pose a continuous threat to existing networks of hedgerows across Kent.

Current Action

  • Environmental Stewardship provides farmers access to grants for the protection and extension of wildlife habitats. Re-creation and management of target habitats such as hedgerows is to be supported by the 2005 Scheme (http://www.defra.gov.uk).
  • There are a number of codes of practice currently available to farmers. One example is the Green Code for the Safe Use of Plant Protection Products. Where appropriate, farmers are required to carry out a Local Environment Risk Assessment For Pesticides (LERAP) (http://www.pesticides.gov.uk).
  • The Voluntary Initiative encourages farmers to consider the environmental impact of their activities, to train sprayer operators to a set standard and to maintain and calibrate sprayer equipment regularly. A farm assessment of the environmental risks to water, insects, plants and animals, and biodiversity is the focus of a Crop Protection Management Plan (CPMP) (http://www.voluntaryinitiative.org.uk).
  • Advisers at the Kent Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (http://www.fwag.org.uk) Game Conservancy (http://www.gct.org.uk) and Rural Development Service of Defra provide advice to farmers on farming practices that benefit wildlife and the environment.
  • Countryside Management Projects, in particular the High Weald Countryside Project and Mid Kent Downs Project, provide practical guides and advice on hedgerow planting within the two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
  • Planning policy documents are increasingly recognising the importance of the hedgerow network. The Kent & Medway Structure Plan considers that hedgerows should be 'maintained and, where it would improve the landscape, enhanced.'

Objectives

  1. Ensure no net loss of ancient &/or species-rich hedgerows.
  2. Continue to encourage the positive management, restoration and re-creation of hedgerows. Priority should be given to: ancient &/or species-rich hedgerows; hedgerows which reconnect other habitats; hedgerows that form a key feature of the landscape character, e.g. Low Weald, in particular where these have been removed due to agricultural intensification.
  3. Raise awareness to the benefits of a positively managed hedgerow for biodiversity and farming.

Relevant Habitat Action Plans

The relevant UK Habitat Action Plans:

The relevant UK Species Action Plans:

The relevant Kent Habitat Action Plans:

  • Cereal Field Margins