Hedgerows as part of a Living Landscape

Hedgerow at Layer Marney Tower. Photo: Essex Wildlife Trust

Hedgerows are an important part of the English landscape and provide a number of essential functions, acting as boundary markers; resource providers; shelters and screens as well as a habitat for other wildlife. Essex Wildlife Trust and Essex Biodiversity Project have been surveying hedgerows in some of our Living Landscape areas, to find out how hedgerows vary in character throughout Essex, whether they are in good condition overall, and if not, what needs to be done to improve them. Recent surveys have concentrated on the area around Birch, in Colchester.

The character of hedgerows in Essex varies considerably from district to district, from the species rich, old hedgerows in the Uttlesford area to the elm dominated hedges in the Maldon area to species rich, newly planted hedges seen in many arable areas. Hedgerows in the Birch Living Landscape area compare favourably on the whole with those in other parts of Essex, and in the wider countryside. The majority of the hedgerows we surveyed were in active management, and connectivitiy between hedgerows was good due to replanting of gappy areas.

In spite of this,  just over a quarter of hedgerows within the Living Landscape were assessed as being in good condition, mainly due to high levels of nutrient enrichment at the base of hedgerows, and narrow margins around some hedgerows. The number of hedgerow trees was also low, perhaps because of loss of Elm trees due to disease, as many hedges in the area contain Elm. Planting new hedgerow trees to replace those that have been lost and widening margins around some hedgerows would therefore improve hedgerow condition in the area.