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Hedge-laying: learning new skills to support our wildlife

This winter we have been embracing a new task on The Farm, as we have begun laying a hedgerow with our volunteers and Wild Steps groups.   

We manage all of our hedgerows on a long-term plan, with cutting only taking place on rotation to allow a diversity of habitats and food sources to flourish within our boundaries. Laying a hedgerow forms part of this plan, and will enable the hedgerow to thicken up, regrowing from the base and continuing to provide a vital habitat for our beloved wildlife for years to come.

Hedge-laying is the process of almost completely cutting through the stems of the trees and laying them flat along the ground. The side branches then become the new upward growth, invigorating the growth from the base of hedgerow and filling up gaps in the hedge too.

This year, we have been working on laying the hedgerow that borders the north end of The Farm which was planted about 12 years ago and has reached quite a substantial height. It is made up of a mix of native species including oak, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle and field maple, along with some wild privet and some patches of bramble. We have also chosen a range of these trees to leave as ‘specimen trees’ that will continue to grow up and mature along the hedgerow - the next generation to follow on from the beautiful oak and ash specimens which tower above this hedgerow already.

We are extremely grateful to have had the support of the CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England)'s Hedgerow Heroes Project, who very kindly funded a training day with renowned local hedge-layer, Mike Reed, for a small group of our staff and volunteers to get the work started.  It has been great to begin this new partnership with such an exciting piece of collaborative work which will benefit the farm's wildlife well into the future.

We were also joined on the first day by one of the team from The Mendip Hills National Landscape (formerly AONB) who have supported us over the last two years, and into this coming year, with grants via the Farming in Protetcted Landscapes fund.

We are continuing the work on the hedgerow over the coming weeks to ensure it's all finished in good time for our local bird-life to start prospecting the new habitat for potential nesting sites in early spring....then once the hard work is over, we can focus on the margin along the base of the hedge, planting wildflowers and watching the wildlife revel in this newly adapted environment.

By Emmy Wurmli, Engagement Leader

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