The Cotswolds are renowned for their quaint villages, bountiful wildlife and beautiful scenery of rolling hills, dry stone walls and traditional hedges. It is these hedges that hold the key to much of the flourishing wildlife seen throughout the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The art of hedgelaying has been part of the Cotswolds landscape for centuries. Traditionally developed and managed as stock-proof barriers and to mark ownership boundaries, the skill of hedgelaying was once common practice.
Over the years, hedges have developed to possess their own distinctive range of species. Surveys in the AONB show us that our hedges are providing essential habitats for bats, reptiles, badgers, hedgehogs, birds, invertebrates, and the rarer hazel dormice and great crested newts (RSPB).
Overall in the UK, hedges have been recorded to house and/or provide food for over 1500 insect species as well as 600 floral species, 65 avian species and 20 mammal species (Hedgelink).
The hedge structure absorbs the wind’s energy, which creates perfect microclimates for sheltering and nesting animals. Hedges also provide food (pollen and nectar) and nesting resources for pollinators such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies. These pollinators collectively provide the UK with an estimated £510m worth of pollination services annually. Without these pollinators, the production of many of our agricultural products would not be possible.
Many researchers have talked about the role hedges play as ‘wildlife corridors’. Many studies have shown that birds, small mammals (shrews, mice, hedgehogs, rabbits, badgers), pollinators and invertebrates choose to travel along hedges instead of crossing exposed open fields. Hedges provide a safe travelling medium that these animals can disperse from, allowing wider-scale colonisation and access to habitats and resources otherwise too hazardous or remote to use.
So by taking one of our hedgelaying courses, you are helping to preserve and increase the numbers and extent of floral and animal species within the AONB for years to come. If you fancy becoming an ambassador for the traditional art of hedgelaying, visit our website at www.cotswoldsruralskills.org.uk and book on!