We undertake hedgerow surveys in relation to the Hedgerow Regulations (1997). This standard survey is aimed at identifying important hedgerows.
All native hedgerows are now classified as Section 41: Habitats of Principal Importance in England under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006.
All hedgerows have wildlife value for species such as invertebrates, birds, mammals and amphibians. They are an intrinsic feature of the UK’s landscape forming a linear latticework of wildlife refuges within an often intensively farmed landscape.
Sometimes forming the woodland boundaries of what was once Britain’s ancient wildwood, ancient hedgerows tend to support the greatest diversity of plants and animals. These hedges were in existence before the Enclosure Acts, passed mainly between 1720 and 1840 in Britain. Hedgerows planted following the Enclosures Acts were often planted in straight lines and enclosed larger field systems reflecting increases in the mechanisation of farming practices and the desire for higher yields. Best described by Oliver Rackham in his classic book The History of the Countryside (1986), Rackham divides Britain into distinct areas of ancient countryside and planned countryside based on these field patterns and origins.
Britain’s hedgerows have suffered great losses particularly in the immediate post-war period (1946 – 63), where hedgerows were lost at an alarming rate of some 3,000 miles per year. In the 1950s, the the forestry commission, (now Forestry England https://www.forestryengland.uk/) estimated that there was one million kilometres of hedgerow in the U.K. By 2007 it was estimated that there were 477.00 km of hedgerow remaining, representing more than a 50% loss in little over 50 years.