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Talk to the hedge

National Hedgerow Week launches to give unsung heroes of nature the recognition they deserve
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Talk to the hedge

National Hedgerow Week (29 May – 06 June) has been launched to highlight the immense contribution these unsung heroes of the natural world make in the fight against climate change, biodiversity loss and urban air pollution.

50% of hedges have been lost since WWII, meaning there has never been a more important time to get the country planting and protecting these wonderful mini nature reserves in our towns and countryside.

Planting new hedgerows

The Committee on Climate Change has advised that we need to plant 200,000km of new hedgerows if the UK is to meet its 2050 net zero target. That is the equivalent length of half the UK road network.

Healthy hedgerows are essential habitats for UK biodiversity, supporting over 2,000 species including the hedgehog and several European Protected Species – notably the dormouse, the great-crested newt and most species of bat, including the greater horseshoe bat.
National Hedgerow Week, an initiative from The Tree Council and partners, will celebrate the wonderful variety of plants that make up our hedgerows – from hawthorns and blackthorns to wild roses, brambles and many more.

With an estimated 3 million new gardeners since lockdown began, now is the moment to highlight the nature-based solutions hedgerows can bring to our environmental challenges. 

Hedge funds available

Throughout the week there will be a range of exciting hedge-inspired activities for volunteers and the public and the UK’s first All Natural Hedgefunds will be distributed.

The Farming Hedgefund will grant £500,000 to landowners in England to help them fill hedgerow gaps and plant 30 miles of new hedges this winter.

A Community Hedgefund will also be available for volunteer Tree Wardens and local groups to plant new community hedges.

‘Hedges are great at capturing carbon and are an essential habitat for our wildlife – not only in the countryside but our towns and cities too. Urban hedges provide shelter, nest sites, food and movement corridors for wildlife and in the countryside they are a key habitat for important species like bumblebees and beetles.

‘Protecting and growing these fantastic little nature reserves is essential if we’re to stop biodiversity loss and fight climate change. They are also wonderful for our mental health and talking to them really does raise a smile and a few eyebrows.’

Principal Research Fellow, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading

Talk to your hedge

The week will kick off with an invitation for people to get up close and personal, reconnect and talk to their hedge!

For too long, hedges have been in the background of conservation, rarely getting the love of their taller cousins (the trees). They are often referred to as messy and needing to be cut back, trimmed, chopped or even ripped out.

The organisers behind National Hedgerow Week believe it’s time to put hedges in the limelight and give them the praise and vocabulary they deserve. It’s time to marvel at the underbrush, praise the fine pleaching and hunker down with the hawthorns.

‘Words have the power to tell stunning stories and bring characters to life. That’s why language really matters when it comes to connecting with the environment and the natural world.

‘Hedgerows are the hidden heroes and sleeping beauties of our streets and countryside and each has a unique tale to tell. Talk To The Hedge is a playful way to start an important conversation about these beautiful, bountiful, bustling habitats and their essential role in saving the planet.’

CEO of The Tree Council

The TalkToTheHedge guide features words and phrases from across the country to provide some positive poetry and prose to compliment your hedge.

Along with delving into the rich history of hedges, talking to the hedge is good for raising awareness of these fine habitats – it also gets you outside and is totally free!

How to help hedges

Taking part in National Hedgerow Week is simple and easy – you don’t even need to own a hedge (although that helps!).

The Tree Council recommends six ways the public can get involved:
1. #TALKTOTHEHEDGE Get to know your local hedges and experience all the amazing things going on inside. Tell everyone you know about how great these special microhabitats are .
2. LET YOUR HEDGEROWS GROW – bigger and for longer. If you’re lucky enough to own a hedge, try letting it grow an extra foot – it supercharges your hedgerow’s ability to capture carbon and air pollution, too. When you do have to cut back, don’t cut to the same place each time. Allowing an extra 4 inches each year will help blossom in spring and berries in autumn to form on last year’s growth. It’s illegal to cut hedges in the bird nesting season, so cut only in winter from November to February.
3. LOVE MESSY BOTTOMS! The bottom part of the hedge is a haven for wildlife – don’t clear it of those lovely old leaves and wild plants that pop up there. But if you see any litter in a hedgerow, take a second to pick it out and dispose of it (recycling where possible). Rubbish causes problems for the wildlife living in the hedge AND gives hedges a bad name.
4. PLANT A HEDGEROW If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, plant a hedgerow! It’s fine alongside an existing fence or railings. Plant a mix of native shrubs and trees for biodiversity benefit – nature loves a good selection!  Hawthorn, hazel, dogwood, guelder rose, beech and yew are just a few of the wonderful  species that are attractive in your garden AND encourage wildlife. If everyone planted or pledged 3 metres (9.5 feet) of hedgerow, we’d smash our national hedgerow targets. You can also apply for a grant to plant a hedge in your community.
5. LEARN MORE ABOUT HEDGES AND BECOME A HEDGEROW CHAMPION Why not join one of the free HedgeTalks to learn more about hedgerows and how you can champion them?
6. DONATE TO PLANT, PROTECT AND CARE FOR HEDGEROWS If you can’t plant hedgerows yourself, make a donation to The Tree Council’s ‘Pledge a Hedge’ campaign and help to champion hedgerows into the future. Donate £15 and you’ll be helping to plant 1m of fantastic hedgerow. Click here for more.

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