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About Hedgerows | Surveys

Hedgerow surveys, whether of individual hedges, parishes, districts or even of whole countries, are immensely valuable for the information they provide about the diversity and state of the UK’s hedges and what needs to be done to restore or maintain them.

Partner members of Hedgelink are very keen to promote more surveys: more information is needed for most places about how many hedgerows there are, about their composition and structure, and about their condition.

To get the most out of surveys they need to be carried out in a consistent and rigorous way across the UK. In particular the use of a standard method makes it much easier to compare results from different parts of the Britain and Ireland and to monitor progress towards the targets in both UK and local Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs). So, Hedgelink members have produced a standard survey method, survey form and database.

We have also commissioned a Review of Surveys, to provide information on what surveys have already been done, and to help spread good practice and new ideas.

Defra has grant-aided many local hedgerow surveys in England over the last few years. Reports from recent such surveys can be found below.

Survey information is also needed to tell us how much progress we are making towards both UK and Local Biodiversity Action Plan targets. Hedgelink members have been working closely with Countryside Survey team to provide relevant information at the country level.

Hedgerow surveys can have additional value through helping to raise awareness and interest among land managers and local communities about the great importance of hedgerows, and what they can do to help improve their condition and ensure survive well into the future.

Hedgerow Survey Toolkit

This toolkit was developed to support a major hedgerow survey of the Princethorpe Living Landscape Zone in east Warwickshire in the 2012-2013 period, which was being carried out by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust with funding from SITA Trust. The toolkit is designed to assist hedgerow surveys undertaken anywhere in the UK and images have been carefully selected to show the sorts of hedgerow features and hedgerow plants you are most likely to encounter. It can be used in conjunction with the Defra Hedgerow Survey Handbook.

View the toolkit Flickr photo library.

OPAL Biodiversity Survey

From September, you can help scientists learn more the nation’s hedges so that the condition of these important habitats can be mapped for conservation. The OPAL Biodiversity Survey, led by The Open University, aims to find out more about the importance of hedges to nature by asking you to identify the plants and insects that live in them and record what you find. Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth, a complex jigsaw made up of plants, animals and their habitats. Hedges are an important habitat and can support a wide diversity of life in all kinds of rural and urban locations.

A free identification guide and activity book can be downloaded from www.biodiversitysurvey.org and by uploading your findings you can help contribute to this national scientific project. The website will display your survey results, along with those of other people from around the country, building a picture of the ecological health of our hedges.

The OPAL Biodiversity Survey is led by The Open University, in association with Hedgelink and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). It is funded as a part of OPAL’s grant from the Big Lottery Fund of £11.75m.

The standard survey method

In 2007, on behalf of Hedgelink, Defra published the second edition of the popular Hedgerow Survey Handbook (PDF 900k): A standard procedure for local surveys in the UK.

The Handbook sets out a standard way of recording hedgerows. Its focus is on the wildlife, or biodiversity, of hedgerows, but it takes account of the importance of hedgerows for farming and their contribution to the beauty of our countryside and to our history and culture.

Using the survey method presented in this handbook will give you accurate information about the state of hedgerows at a local level, about the main influences on their condition, and what needs to be done to maintain or restore them.

Survey forms

The hedgerow recording form for use with the standard Handbook method can be downloaded as a Word document here (DOC, 431k).

The Handbook also contains a form to summarize the key information from local surveys. Completion of this form is very helpful to allow the results from local surveys to be compared and contrasted, and in particular to help develop country-wide and UK pictures about the state of our hedgerows. Here you can download the summary report form.

Completed survey information should be sent to Local Record Centres (see www.nfbr.org.uk for details). Please send completed summary report forms to farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Hedgerow survey database

A new web-based database is now available for use with the standard survey procedure given in the Hedgerow Survey Handbook (2nd edition, 2007). This hedgerow survey database allows quick entry of all information collected using the standard recording form, including optional sections. It will shortly also have full analytical capability, allowing key results to be produced simply and quickly, as well as reports to be prepared. It will also be capable of being linked to GIS and to photos, and can be exported to Microsoft Excel if necessary. Here you will find further details on the new hedgerow survey database.

This new database, funded by Defra and developed by the Food and Environment Research Agency on behalf of Hedgelink, replaces an earlier Microsoft Access database. Most users found this earlier database difficult to use and its analytical and reporting capabilities were limited. The old database was not designed to be used on-line but to be downloaded onto a PC: Microsoft Access 2000 or above was required.

Please contact farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk. For any queries relating to the new database.

Review of Surveys

On behalf of Hedgelink, in 2007 Defra commissioned Barr Ecology to complile an inventory of UK hedgerow surveys undertaken since the 1980’s, regardless of the survey methodology. In all, 70 surveys were found and questioannaires completed for 51 of these. The review is intended to be a helpful resource for all those carrying out surveys. You will be able to find out what other surveys have been carried out in your locality, and learn lessons from those carried out elsewhere but in similar circumstances or with similar objectives. The inventory will be updated as further surveys come to light or are completed.

If you know of any surveys that are missing from the inventory, or can fill in any of the missing detail please contact us.

Here you can download the full hedgerow survey review (Excel document 155 KB).

Grant aid for surveys

Defra invite applications for grant-aid for hedgerow surveys at the beginning of each calendar year and hope to be able to continue to do so. Individual grants have a maximum value of £5,000, and are only available for surveys in England. If you are interested in receiving notification of the next round, please contact farmland.conservation@defra.gsi.gov.uk. Other sources of possible funding for surveys are given in Appendix 3 to the Hedgerow Survey Handbook.

Local hedgerow surveys completed or underway with Defra funding

Defra has grant-aided five or more local hedgerow surveys most years since 2003, nearly all in England. A list of these surveys by year can be seen below.b

In 2009 a review was carried out of all those of Defra-sponsored surveys carried out in 2006, 2007 and 2008 using the standard procedure. This is accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows the key results for each survey grant-aided by Defra between 2006 and 2010 (please note: this spreadsheet contains mainly tabular data and is not designed for printing).

The review finds that the quality of survey reports and information provided has been high. A total of 4,207 hedgerows were sampled, covering 787 km. The combined area surveyed was 7,360km2, 5.5% of the area of England. The 20 surveys were distributed across all Government Office regions. The review concludes that local surveys are effective in helping to deliver local hedgerow BAP targets, leading to direct conservation action. They stimulate provision of management advice to farmers and other landowners, and influence policy and resource allocation. Local surveys are also effective at raising awareness and understanding of hedgerows among local communities, and at increasing public participation in their conservation. They also have a valuable role to play in improving understanding about the state of hedgerows across the nation, and about countrywide priorities for action. Local surveys support, challenge and complement the information provided by Countryside Survey.

Key HAP priorities to emerge from the review are:

  1. Promotion of management, especially laying, coppicing and planting, to prevent and fill gaps and to increase the size of over-short or thin hedgerows;
  2. The restoration of plant communities affected by nutrient enrichment, and
  3. The recruitment of young hedgerow trees.

Recommendations are made about future targeting of surveys and about improvements to reporting. Sponsorship of surveys in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by appropriate authorities is highly desirable.

2006 Defra grant-aided surveys

  1. Bedfordshire County Council – Studham & Whipsnade Hedgerow Study
  2. Calderdale Council – The Calderdale Hedge Hunt
  3. Campaign to Protect Rural England – Warwickshire
  4. Chilterns Conservation Board – Survey of stock and condition of hedgerows in the Chilterns AONB
  5. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust – Chesterfield hedgerows survey
  6. Durham Biodiversity Partnership – Durham hedgerow Survey
  7. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre – Pilot assessment of biological and historical features in Kent
  8. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council – Rotherham ancient and species-rich hedgerow survey

2007 Defra grant-aided surveys

  1. Bedfordshire County Council – Maulden Parish hedgerow study
  2. Dorset Environmental Records Centre – Dorset hedgerow surveys
  3. Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group – Devon hedgerow project
  4. Chilterns Conservation Board – Survey of the stock and condition of hedgerows in the Chilterns AONB
  5. Sussex Wildlife Trust- Sussex hedgerow inventory
  6. South Gloucestershire Council – South Gloucestershire field boundaries survey of Development Pressure Area
  7. Cumbria Biodiversity Partnership – Cumbria hedgerows project

2008 Defra grant-aided surveys

  1. BTCV — Species-rich and ancient hedgerows in the Canterbury area
  2. Cumbria Biodiversity Partnership — Cumbria hedge survey
  3. Bromley Borough — Darwin’s hedgerows
  4. Cheshire FWAG — Shocklach ancient hedge survey
  5. Devon FWAG — Devon hedgerow survey project
  6. Exmoor National Park — Celebrating Exmoor’s hedges
  7. Bedfordshire County Council — Chalk Hills hedgerow study
  8. Three Valleys — Hedgerows of the Moss Valley

2009 Defra grant-aided surveys

  1. Severn Vale hedgerow survey: Parishes of Longney, Frampton, Elmore, Slimbridge and Frocester.
  2. Malvern Hills AONB hedgerow survey: Malvern Hills AONB, including parts of # Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
  3. Cornwall hedgerow survey project: St Dennis and Tregony Parishes.
  4. Chalk Hills Hedgerow Survey II: Area east of Barton Hills SSSI including Deacon Hill SSSI and the farmland to the north around Knocking Hoe SSSI on the border of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
  5. Historic Parklands and Estates Hedgerow Survey, West Yorkshire: Harewood, # Lotherton Hall and Temple Newsham estates in Leeds District, West Yorkshire.
  6. Devon Hedgerow Survey 3: Parish of Spreyton.

2010 Defra grant-aided surveys

  1. West Worcester Tree and Hedgerow Survey: North-west of Worcester City, between St John’s, Hallow and the villages of Lower Broadheath and Upper Broadheath.
  2. Dorset Hedgerow Surveys: Parishes of Hammoon, Manston and Hinton St Mary, together with small areas of Marnhull, Sturminster Newton and Okeford Fitzpaine, in North Dorset.
  3. Kingsclere Parish Hedgerow Survey: Kingsclere Parish, NW Hants (half of parish is in N Wessex Downs AONB).
  4. Hartlepool Hedgerow Survey: The Borough of Hartlepool.
  5. Severn Vale hedgerow survey (Phase 2): Severn Vale parishes/parts of Arlingham, Cam, Coaley, Eastington, Elmore, Frampton on Severn, Frocester, Fretherne with Saul, Longney, Slimbridge and Whitminster.
  6. Hedgerows for Hazeleigh Woods Project: Hazeleigh Woods Living Landscape area, Maldon district, Essex. The area stretches from the parish of Woodham Mortimer eastwards to the Blackwater estuary.
  7. Moreton, Fyfield and The Lavers Hedgerow Survey: Parishes of Moreton, Fyfield and The Lavers in Epping Forest District, Essex.
  8. Hedge Laying Association of Ireland hedgerow surveys
  9. Some excellent examples of hedgerow surveys can be found on the website of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland

The Suffolk Hedgerow Survey

Since 1999 the Suffolk Coastal Greenprint Forum has been organising voluntary hedgerow surveys, initially within the Suffolk Coastal area, but soon expanding to cover the whole of Suffolk. By October 2010 a hundred and seventy six parishes had completed their surveys of 22,800 hedgerows.

The Suffolk Biological Records Centre is already relating the hedgerow data, to data it holds on the incidence of various species and habitats, and clear correlations are already emerging between landscape and species rich hedgerows to the favourable status of those species and habitats.

Suffolk Coastal District Council established an environmental forum (the Greenprint Forum), initially to decide on its Agenda and in 1998 appointed a hedgerow working group to survey all landscape hedgerows in every parish in the district to record, for the very first time on such a wide scale, every hedgerow excluding towns, villages, private gardens, woods and forest.

The working group set up a modus operandi, issued some local publicity, inherited a trial run which had virtually collapsed no sooner than it had started, set up training for volunteers from the parishes and launched the project which ran continuously for 12 years until the final parish survey was completed in January 2012.

The data collection part of the project ended at the end of 2011, by which time 317 parish surveys had been completed, providing data on 38,295 landscape hedgerows.

The final report for the project has now been published and is available to download at http://www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk/yourdistrict/greenissues/greenprint/hedgerows/

For more information, visit the Suffolk Hedgerow Survey website.

Countryside Survey

Countryside Survey (CS) is a sample based comprehensive audit of the natural resources of the UK’s countryside.

The Survey has been carried out at regular intervals since 1978. The countryside is sampled and studied using rigorous scientific methods, allowing even gradual and subtle changes in the UK’s countryside to be detected. The latest survey took place in 2007 and the results are now available on the Countryside Survey website.

Countryside Survey is the principle tool used to assess progress with most of the targets in the UK Hedgerow Biodiversity Action Plan. In England, Scotland and Wales it is carried out by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (a Natural Environment Research Council institute). CEH is a member organisation of Hedgelink. A linked survey was carried out in Northern Ireland by the University of Ulster.

The main findings from the 2007 survey relating to hedgerows are available in the Boundary and Linears Broad Habitat Chapters of the various country level reports available in the ‘Output’s section of the CS website. It is also possible to access data on the findings from the survey for a range of plot types associated with hedgerows at regional levels by simply registering as a user on the site in the ‘Data Access’ section of the website.

Hedgerow management on farms – Latest statistics

The latest National Statistics on agri-environment and business practices on farms from the Defra Farm Practices Survey were released on August 2008.

Four main topics are covered by the report; administration, business practices, livestock and environmental impacts which includes a section on hedgerow management (section 6) and the survey aims to investigate the impact of farming on the environment. A more descriptive report is due to be published towards the end of 2008.

Also look out for an article which will compare the hedgerow management results from the latest survey with those of past surveys.
Here you can view the results from past surveys.

Less hedges layed in Devon

A survey of contractors in Devon has shown that the amount of hedge laying and planting had fallen in recent years, and links this to the decline in grant aid available under schemes like Environmental Stewardship over recent years. Read the full report here (pdf – 95KB)

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