The fragmentation of our countryside has led to the likelihood of wildlife isolation and inbreeding. Green Corridors are linear landscape features which link habitats, allowing wildlife to move around safely, thus promoting species-richness and diversity. Green Corridors include rivers, ditches and their banks, woodland, railway tracks, and the two I want to write about here - hedges and verges.
In our village are the remains of once vast networks of ancient hedges, nowadays often managed sympathetically by thoughtful farmers and other environmentally concerned people. But we also see evidence of less informed or careless management techniques - hedges removed or severely flailed, verges over-zealously mown, in a misplaced obsession with ‘tidiness’. Fortunately, awareness is growing via the media, through some inspiring, visionary ‘personalities’, wildlife organisations and the enlightened efforts of a number of individuals and groups. Awareness of climate change, as well as this year’s COVID-19 crisis, has jolted most of us into realising how interdependent are humans and the natural world, and how important it is for us to live in harmony alongside our wildlife inheritance.
Anyone, from those with a modest garden to farmer-guardians of large acreages, as well as local councils, can play a part in creating green corridors to benefit our precious wildlife. The ideal country hedge, especially where it abuts farmland, is a mix of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, field maple, etc. with larger native trees at intervals. Wild woodland edge flowers establish themselves, and the leaf litter at the bottom of the hedge provides habitat for spiders, butterflies, bees, stag beetles (in decaying stumps) and shelter, food and nest sites for woodmice, bank voles, hedgehogs and birds. Larger mammals use them to extend their range safely. Bats use hedgerows for navigation too. Maintain mixed hedges with a three year cutting cycle - top and each side in turn - allowing flowering and fruiting. If you have a neglected traditional hedge consider laying it. If there’s no space for this type of hedge in your garden, how about a mixture of flowering and fruiting shrubs which, if pruned correctly, can form a lovely dense boundary? If there’s so little space that a fence would be more appropriate, plant it with climbers and leave a hedgehog sized hole at the bottom, encouraging neighbours to do likewise, to create a ‘hedgehog highway’.
Another linear feature is the road verge. If all verges were maintained as green corridors it would give wildlife extra space as extensive as our five major cities! Cheaper and less polluting too. Leave the first cut-and-remove until the end of July or later to allow flowers to seed, and leave an area uncut ( in rotation) for overwintering beasties. If untidiness or road safety is an issue, a mown border can be maintained. The same principles apply for wildflower areas in garden or churchyard, and also field margins.
Kiss the Ground - uplifting environmental film - Netflix
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