Nature's Corridors

15th May 2024

Hedgerows quietly dot the British countryside, often overlooked but profoundly important. Last week marked National Hedgerow Week, highlighting the importance of these unassuming yet essential features of our landscape.

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Forming the largest wildlife habitat in the UK, these green corridors act as vital connectors between fragmented habitats. They provide sanctuary for a diverse array of flora and fauna, from mammals to insects, and birds to bats. Hedgerows serve as critical thoroughfares, allowing creatures to forage and thrive in an increasingly divided landscape. Additionally, they offer refuge and protection for livestock, shielding them from harsh weather conditions while enhancing soil health.

By preventing soil erosion and reducing water runoff, they help maintain soil fertility and mitigate the impacts of droughts and floods. The intricate root systems of hedgerow trees not only stabilise soil but also create microclimates conducive to the growth of surrounding plants.

The Goodwood Estate is fortunate to have the help of Rosie, a professional hedge layer and the Crumblies Conservation Group, a team of dedicated volunteers who have been meticulously laying hedgerows at Goodwood for over 20 years. Their invaluable expertise in traditional hedge laying has not only enhanced the landscape but has rejuvenated various hedgerows, expanding their lifecycle and had huge ecological benefits, providing a haven for the local wildlife. Working in pairs, they clear unwanted growth,, partially cut existing live stems and then and lay them down. Then they insert stakes and interweave the binders – the long hazel rods that hold the laid stems (the pleachers) in position.


The estate recognises that in order for hedgerows to flourish, they need to be incorporated into a management cycle. A habitat so dynamic, should not be kept at the same level of growth each year and so efforts are underway to rejuvenate, coppice, plant, trim and expand hedgerow networks across the estate. The other alternative management option is just to rest the hedge for a year or two, the untrimmed outer edges bear much more blossom and fruit, offering a richer food source for wildlife and supplying berries perfect for making jams and gin.

Looking to the future, the estate team is exploring the concept of "super hedges," which is a coined term used to describe expansive hedgerows between 5 and 10 meters wide, comprising multiple native species of trees, shrubs, and woodland edge plants. These super hedges are designed to provide the optimal habitat potential. Instead of being trimmed into neat, square shapes, these hedgerows will trimmed higher and wider to allow for growth. While traditionally trimmed hedges may look tidy, they are not particularly beneficial for wildlife and will eventually weaken and deteriorate with continual flailing at the same height each year. A happy healthy hedgerow will have a dark, entangled core which is ideal for nesting songbirds, dormice, and many other small mammals. In winter, they provide refuge for insects, spiders, and roosting birds.

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