These are the proposals in the manifesto, listed by the ministry. You may comment on the proposals, preferably with a view to selecting something for action. If you would like this to be considered as a project for further discussion as to the exact action desired, please advise in the comment.

Hedgerows and Verges Aims

1. Replant hedgerows: we need 300,000km more to get us back to where we were 60 years ago. The dramatic loss of hundreds of thousands of kilometres of hedgerows has been predominantly attributed to lack of management and the advent of modern farming practices. This has resulted in the slow conversion of hedgerows into lines of trees and shrubs and the formation of relict hedges with large gaps and no base, caused by careless trimming with flails 6 .

2. 60% of hedgerows currently not in ‘favourable condition’, they should be repaired by plugging gaps, with financial support for the ‘laying’ of hedges. There are various parameters that define the health of a hedgerow, but broadly speaking these can be divided into five categories: integrity, size, species composition, nutrient richness and perennial vegetation cover. So for example, if there are too many gaps in the hedgerow, integrity is affected; too short and too thin is also not good, or with more than 10% of non-native species composition, etc. Hedges can survive indefinitely (and indeed they do, some are hundreds of years old), but they need regular upkeep and must be laid every 15 to 25 years. Hedgelaying involves cutting nearly all the way through the base of the stems and laying them over at an angle of about 30 degrees. This is an ancient craft, which is thought to have been practiced since Roman Britain, but without financial support or good enough incentives, it is easy to see how so many kilometres of precious habitat have become neglected.

3. Hedgerow trees to be celebrated and replenished – they are almost uniform in age and are not being replaced as they die. Hedgerow trees are trees that emerge out of a hedgerow. However, many of these were planted at a similar time and are now aging and getting towards the end of their lives. Unless these trees are actively replaced, we will be losing this important feature from the countryside.

4. Mandatory introduction of hedgerow management practices to eliminate ‘flailed stumps’ and promote ecological value, to include rotational cutting and avoidance of fruiting and bird nesting periods.

5. Expand the use of mechanical hedge-laying techniques – quick, crude but cheaper and effective for wildlife. Mechanical laying consists of cutting stems with a powered pruning saw, and then crashing the hedge down and shaping it by pushing the cut stems into position. This technique may not be as elegant as traditional laying, but due to the high cost of traditional maintenance and a shortage of skilled labour, mechanical laying may be the most cost-effective method to quickly restore hedgerows that badly need it.

6. Where no safety is compromised ban the cutting of verges while in flower. Councils to be supported in investing in cutting machinery to collect trimmings from verge maintenance – which in turn can become a resource for energy generation. Lincolnshire County Council are currently trialing this. Throughout the summer they have been using roadside verge cutting to generate electricity and heat by employing a specially designed harvesting machine that takes the biomass to an anaerobic digestion plant. The trial provides a number of benefits: it generates cheap energy, reduces verge cutting costs and, by removing cuttings, increases verge biodiversity.

7. However, careful management must be in place to ensure that verges are not cut while in flower.

8. Mandatory ecological management of the verges of our road, rail and other networks to maximise wildlife corridors through the landscape. Significant urban trees to be named and owned by primary school classes in perpetuity to form lifelong bonds between people and trees.

10. Street trees’ value in terms of environmental services should be considered first in all street tree management or replacement decisions. Ecosystem services can be defined as the benefits that people derive from nature. Urban trees provide numerous services that are extremely useful for us, the citizens who live alongside them. And what’s more, all the services they provide come without an invoice - they are, in other words, free. Most of the services provided to us by urban trees are of the regulating type, such as carbon sequestration, temperature regulation, stormwater alleviation, air purification and noise mitigation. 8 Valuing these services is relatively easy - all we need to do is calculate what it would cost us to build infrastructure to replace what the trees do for us. For example, the 8.4 million trees of London provide £132.7 million worth of benefits each year.9 However, trees also provide cultural and spiritual services, and it is much harder to put an economic value on those. The mental health benefits, the beauty, the inspiration, the nature connection, the cultural significance of trees, the animals they host, the perch they provide for the singing birds, the shimmering sunlight they filter through their canopy in summer. All of these aspects must be considered, calculated and weighed carefully before any of these extraordinarily beautiful and useful living organisms are felled or replaced in an urban setting.

References:

6. Wright, J.(2016). A natural history of the hedgerow: and ditches, dykes and dry stone walls.Profile books, London
7. Lincolnshine County Council (2018). Grass verge cuttings to generate electricity in trial energy project. [website] Available at: 
https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/news/grass-verge-cuttings-to-generate-electricity-in-trial-energy-project/132388.article(Accessed 14/09/2018)
8.Davies, H., Doick, K., Handley, P., O’Brien, L., Wilson, J. (2017). Delivery of ecosystem services by urban forests. Forestry Commission Research Report, Edinburgh.
9. Rogers, K., Sacre, K., Goodenough, J., Doick, K. (2015). Valuing London’s Urban Forest. Treeconomics, London

 

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Trees Aims
Rewilding Aims
 

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Saturday, 23 February 2019