Southern Water Biodiversity Grant funded - Hedging Our Future Project
The last month has been spent gathering information about the hedges on the peninsula, starting with the data collected by the Fixing and Linking Our Wetlands (FLOW) project, and then approaching the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre and the WSCC Records Office. There is historical information available about where hedges have been in the past and this will help us to decide where they maybe replanted in the future.
What is going on at the base of the hedge?
The base area of a hedge is extremely important and NOT spraying herbicide in this area adds huge value, allowing a buffer zone of at least a metre either side to develop. A dense zone of wildflowers and grasses helps to retain moisture at ground level and this is attractive to invertebrates, small mammals, and amphibians.
A thick hedge made up of different native tree species and climbers is the perfect spot for birds to hide their nests deep inside, away from the prying eyes of magpies. Dunnocks and willow warblers prefer medium or tall hedgerows with few trees. Wrens, robins, and whitethroats usually nest low down, but song thrushes, blackbirds, chaffinches, and greenfinches nest well above the ground level.
Grey partridges use grass cover at the hedge bottom and nightingales need extremely dense scrub or hedgerows to hide their nests. Hence there is an increasing population of both species at Knepp where gentle browsing of the unmanaged hedges by herbivores at different heights, and protection by brambles, has resulted in thick dense scrub ideal for bird nesting.
Rural hedgehogs use hedges to move around the countryside and the base area offers a buffet of worms, slugs, snails and insects as this area is shady and often moist. Field species such as brown hares use hedges for food and as protection to disappear into if chased out in the open, and deer will melt into them if threatened.
Ancient hedges can be relic pieces of ancient woodland that were cut down hundreds of years ago to create more land for farming or grazing. Some ancient woodland indicator floral species can be found in these hedges including native bluebells, butcher’s broom, yellow archangel, wood avens, wood anemone, and wild garlic. When out and about have a look for these species as they maybe a clue to the past.