CPRE and Wild Oxfordshire – the return of Hedgerow Heroes

Location for hedge planting in Ewelme (002)

5th September 2023

Jess Bouwer, of Wild Oxfordshire, discussing hedge planting in Ewelme

CPRE and Wild Oxfordshire are delighted to announce the next stage in the Hedgerow Heroes initiative, working at seven sites across Oxfordshire. 

CPRE and Wild Oxfordshire are really excited to be working with the community groups and parish councils of Dorchester on Thames, Great Haseley, Upper Heyford, Ewelme, Wootton by Woodstock and Foxburrow Wood, Witney. We will be planting 2,230m of new hedgerows and rejuvenating 525m of exhausted ones. Around 170 volunteers will be involved in the project and there are 4 hedgelaying training days planned which will provide skills to enable volunteers to take care of their own hedges and hopefully be inspired to share their knowledge.

On Sunday 29th October there was a hedgelaying training session, which was a huge success. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and were in good spirits! As a bonus rain held off for the majority of the day.

“Really interesting day, we learnt loads! Great number of people involved, not too many not too few. Toby was brilliant, biscuits were yummy, and tea and coffee was hot!” – Samantha, hedgelaying volunteer.

Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said:
‘We are really looking forward to working with Wild Oxfordshire and building on the success of previous Hedgerow Heroes projects in Kidlington, Watlington and Eynsham. This time we have been able to support more communities to achieve their vision for local hedgerows, develop a better understanding of the importance of hedges and provide opportunities for practical involvement and engagement.’

Hedgerows are vital for wildlife such as small mammals, farmland birds, perennial wildflowers and many invertebrates benefit from healthy, dense mixed species hedges, with few gaps. They provide a home, forage, hunting ground, shelter and routes of travel within our increasingly fragmented and intensively managed landscape.  

The landscape in Oxfordshire has been under pressure over recent years, as a result of both development and agricultural practices. The Our Land Our Future report was published in 2020 by the Oxfordshire Treescapes Project, supported by Oxfordshire County Council, NFU, CLA and others.  It estimates that Oxfordshire currently has around 13,000km of hedgerow but has lost approximately 50% of its hedgerows since the 1940s. 
It calls for:

  • A 40% increase in Oxfordshire hedgerows by 2050
  • A reintroduction of new hedgerows to around 20% of our agricultural field boundaries.

In Oxfordshire a 40% increase would see an additional 3,128km by 2050 – or 108km a year, which sounds ambitious. However, equally distributed across the county (there are 235 parishes in Oxfordshire), it’s only about 0.5km per parish per year, for the next 30 years!  

Hedges form an important element in Oxfordshire’s landscape, such as the rectangular grid of the Parliamentary Enclosure hedges, especially well seen from the Ridgeway, and the chequerboard pattern near Otmoor, reputedly the inspiration for the chess game in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  In the Chilterns and in the former Wychwood Forest, woodland relic hedgerows provide evidence of assarting of ancient woodland. In short, hedges are amazing. 

 How you can help: 

  So, how healthy are the hedgerows in your corner of Oxfordshire?  

If you are surveying or enhancing your parish’s hedgerows, Wild Oxfordshire would love to hear from you contact: jessica@wildoxfordshire.org.uk   www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk  

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