Hedgerows - a wildlife habitat
Hedgerows an important wildlife habitat Hedgerows are an integral part of the English landscape snaking across the countryside dividing arable fields and pastures along with marking the boundaries of country lanes. They act as linear ribbons of woodland as far as the wildlife is concerned. The importance of hedgerows to wildlife is emphasised by the names of plants and creatures for example, hedge sparrow, hedgehog, hedge woundwort, hedgerow crane's-bill, hedge parsley, hedge bindweed, hedge mustard and hedge bedstraw
All the previous species and a plethora of others use hedgerows for food, shelter, protection,ans as a means of conveying themselves from one area to another, in the manner of arboreal highways. An ivy grown hedge with a profusion of twigs on the floor makes an ideal habitat for small mammals and an innumerable number of insects. Ivy often embraces hedgerows giving cover for creatures during the winter months when they require it the most. In northern England hawthorn with its repellent thorns make up a good percentage of the hedgerows. Hedgerows that are allowed to grow naturally with a minimum of maintenance  hold far morewildlife than their well trimmed and manicured poor relations. Many of our hedgerows are interrupted by deciduous trees and shrubs which add diversity to the hedgerow and adds to the numbers of wildlife that occur there. Many species of moths are associated with hedgerows such as the brimstone, yellow carpet, magpie, light emerald, swallow tail, mottled umber,and common footman.
The brimstone moth is associated with hedgerows. Photograph courtesy of Jeffdelonge wikipedia.
              Hedgerows with trees make an ideal habitat for many animals. Photograph by D.A.L
This rose hip of Rosa regusa is quite common place in local hedgerows. Photograph by D.A.L Briars climb through the hedgerow brightening the waysides with their delicate coloured petals before producing the hips that are so rich in VitaminC. Honeysuckle is another plant that will bind its way through the hedgerow producing nectar rich flowers which are succeeded by red berries that contain the seed. The anfractuous stems of the hedge bindweed also adorn hedgerows in late summer producing the large trumpet like flowers which are much visited by a plethora of insects and at night by long tongued moths. At this time of the year, as summer slides slowly towards autumn the hedgerows are blessed with an explosion of ripening fruits. The sharp taloned brambles produce the berries which are sought after by humans and many species of wildlife, as does the charming rowan along with the hawthorn that produces their red haws called locally "pixie apples", despite their diminutive size they a eaten eagerly by many species of birds, particularly thrushes, and small mammals rely heavily upon them. They gorge themselves happily, they sense that winter is just around the corner and weight needs to gained in order to survive the coldest months. In the rich embrace of the woodland the tiny wren makes his living, slipping deeper into the gloom as he quests for insects. The racy smell of the hedge bottom with its leaf litter and twigs the hedgehog starts his nocturnal wanderings with a silent dedication, poking his pig-like nose into all manner of places. Shrews are engaging little animals constantly on the move in search of food. However, during the winter the shrew is capable of attaining a torpid state where the rise and fall of the temperature does not seem to affect this sound little slumberer.
The engaging little shrew is constantly on the move using hedgerows to go about his business in relative safety. Photograph by courtesy of Sjonge. Wikipedia
Honeysuckle flowers provide a rich source of nectar, they appear in hedgerows during mid summer. Photograph by D.A.L.
They are succeeded by bright berries that protect the seeds. Photograph by D.A.L. During the winter nest are exposed that were well concealed by the summer foliage. The occupants that enjoyed the security of that leafy serenity are long gone. I have often happened upon an old nest that contained half eaten haws[The fruit of hawthorn}, and other morsels of food adorning the interior, a sure sign that a small creature such as the wood mouse has taken its fancy to this vacant nest, so as to eat  its wares concealed and in comfort. Animals convey themselves great distances along the hedgerows, whereas these wary venturers would more than likely succumb to predators taking alternative routes to such destinations. In the U.K. we have lost a great percentage of our hedgerows over the last 50 years or so. Many of these were on agricultural land has they made way for large farm machinery such as combine harvesters. It has long been recognised by conservation groups the importance of hedgerows to wildlife  In 1997 the Government passed the Hedgerow Regulations Act. Statutory Instrument  No 1160, which came into force on June the first 1997. The authorities decided on a criteria which defined Important Hedgerows.Two of these state that  the hedgerow has a continuous length of , or, exceeding 20 metres , or that at each end meets, {whether by intersection or junction} another hedgerow. The Regulations do not apply to a hedgerow within the curtilage of, or, marking the boundary of the curtilage of, a dwelling house. The hedgerow is also deemed important {thus protected} if it has existed for 30 or more years. Any such hedgerows deemed by the Regulations as being important cannot be removed without a signed {by the Authorities} a "Removal Notice" being attained. The local planning Authority has to decide on each application which may be allowed or denied depending on their findings. Obviously the Hedgerows Regulations Act is far to lengthy to go into great detail within the confines of this hub and is mentioned to illustrate the importance now being put on hedgerows as a wildlife habitat, throughout the land. {The Regulations only apply to England and Wales in the U.K.}
The Haws the fruit of the hawthorn are turning nicely, soon they will be gorged upon by a diverse number of creatures. Photograph by D.A.L.
Black berries are eagerly sought after by humans and animals alike. Photograph by D.A.L
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