CPRE’s Hedgerow Heroes – the volunteers restoring local landscapes

By Countryside Voices

Thanks to a generous corporate donation, we are funding five of our county CPREs in a project that will create or restore almost 10 miles of hedgerow by May 2022.

The initiative supports CPRE’s #40by50 campaign to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises through a 40% increase in hedgerows by 2050. Working with local landowners to identify the sites that would benefit most, our groups are aiming to engage a combined total of 600 volunteers, 15 schools and two colleges.

We’re excited to be introducing so many people to practical conservation work that will deepen their connection to local countryside. Here’s the latest information on what’s happening in each area, with links to the five county websites.

Hampshire

A group of people standing by a farm gate in woodland
CPRE Hampshire’s hedgerow volunteers on the Meyrick Estate with hedgelaying trainer Chris Sparkes (left) | Bob Hart

CPRE Hampshire volunteers will be working to plant and restore almost two miles of hedgerow on the Meyrick Estate, near the New Forest National Park, following comprehensive wildlife surveys this summer. Local people will benefit from restored footpaths accessing the sites, where interpretation boards will enhance their understanding of the hedgerows. Meanwhile, regular visits from Bransgore primary and Highcliffe secondary school pupils will form part of a special educational project.

A group of children with notepads recording wildlife in a country lane
Bransgore Primary School pupils surveying hedgerows | Boyd McCleary

CPRE Hampshire’s Natalie Hargreaves recently attended an assembly with all Key Stage 2 children at Bransgore; some of the pupils then visited the restoration site to learn about hedgerow management, look for evidence of wildlife habitats and identify plant species including field maple and buckthorn. Before departing, the children all signed the ‘Hedge Pledge’ to become Hedgerow Heroes within their own school, where a new hedge is being planted in January.

A group of children in a country track holding certificates
Hedgerow heroes from Bransgore Primary School hold their Hedge Pledges aloft | Boyd McCleary

CPRE Hampshire’s volunteer-led work on the Meyrick Estate will continue through the winter, with a programme of hedgelaying and planting led by expert Chris Sparkes.

Find out more and get involved at www.cprehampshire.org.uk/hedgerows

Oxfordshire

Three people standing in front of a wooden fence in a gap in a hedgerow
CPRE Oxfordshire’s Richard Harding (centre) launches the new hedgerow campaign with Roselle Chapman of Wild Oxfordshire (left) and county councillor Dr Pete Sudbury (right) | Nicola Schafer Photography

CPRE Oxfordshire is excited to be working with conservation charity Wild Oxfordshire, and the parish councils of Watlington, Kidlington and Eynsham, to rejuvenate 250 metres of ancient hedgerow and create over a mile of new habitat. 10 planting days will be held over winter, following a November training day with hedgelayer Nigel Adams.

In the meantime, volunteers and the general public enjoyed November’s online talk by naturalist John Wright’s on the history of British hedgerows – part of CPRE Oxfordshire’s 90th anniversary lecture series. This was followed by four hedgerow webinars hosted by Wild Oxfordshire, with speakers including ecologist Rob Wolton and habitats campaigner Megan Gimber.

Find out more and get involved at www.cpreoxon.org.uk

Shropshire

A girl in a blue top sawing wooden stakes holding a hedgerow together
A young hedgelayer gets to grips with tidying up the hedge stakes at CPRE Shropshire’s training event | Joe Penfold

CPRE Shropshire volunteers will be planting over a mile of new hedgerow and filling in gaps in existing ones this winter, enhancing 24 sites in the county. Before then, our volunteers teamed up with the Shropshire Hills Young Rangers to hold an October hedgelaying workshop for 12- to 16-year-olds. The participants braved very cold and windy weather to lay around 15m of a 12-year-old Hawthorn hedge that had not been laid before.

A boy sharpening the end of a wooden stake in the countryside
‘Pointing up’ a hedgerow stake in the glorious setting of the Shropshire Hills | Sarah Jameson

November then saw two successful 2-day training events for adults, and a workshop designed for farmers and landowners. The aim is to have around 60 people trained before Christmas, to help with further hedgelaying in the new year. Meanwhile, volunteers are needed for a series of hedge planting dates – sign up here!

CPRE Shropshire is also hosting a fascinating series of online talks about hedgerows, with presentations still to come on their protection, their historic importance as field boundaries, and their role in connecting wildlife habitats.

Find out more and get involved at www.cpreshropshire.org.uk/hedgerow-project

Suffolk

A flat landscape with views of pasture and hedgerows
Suffolk’s ‘Constable Country’, seen here from Wissington, will soon benefit from more and healthier hedgerows | Robert Clare / Alamy Stock Photo

CPRE Suffolk is providing opportunities for community involvement in revitalising hedgerows on four farms in ‘Constable Country’ – the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A November training day taught volunteers hedgerow management techniques – including the traditional Suffolk method of coppicing, before work begins on planting and restoring four miles of hedgerow.

The projects will all take place within view of footpaths and lanes to maximise public engagement, with CPRE Suffolk president Geoffrey Probert hoping they prove to be pilots which will ‘light a fire of enthusiasm for roll out elsewhere.’

Gloucestershire

A newly laid hedgerow in a hilly landscape
Traditional Cotswolds hedgelaying – as seen here near Winchcombe – helps maintain this iconic landscape | Nick Turner / Alamy Stock Photo

CPRE Gloucestershire is joining forces with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group to support farmers in creating over two miles of new hedgerow in the county. The aim is to link existing hedgerow habitats to increase the biodiversity and climate change resilience of farmed landscapes. Our group is also helping to sponsor over half a mile of new hedgerow as part of a wider project to create wildlife corridors between the waterways of the Cotswolds.

With work in all five counties set to progress throughout winter and spring (weather and pandemic permitting!), do look out for updates on this page and contact the relevant group to find out about local volunteering opportunities.

Hedgelaying volunteers and a shire horse in a field with hedges and a tree
Volunteers at CPRE Shropshire's November hedgelaying workshop are assisted by a Shire horse taking away the ‘brash’ to create new habitats Sarah Jameson

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