Habitat heroes help create hedgerow havens

Habitat heroes help create hedgerow havens

Hedgerow Havens volunteers making hay in a field near the village of Weedon. Left to right: Jeremy Goodall, Marcus Militello, Jacqui Titcombe, Gordon Brett, Sue Goodall and Kevin Powell. Picture: Marcus Militello

BBOWT and Buckinghamshire Council are celebrating the conclusion of a successful three-year project that has created and restored more than 5km of hedgerows and other vital habitats for wildlife to thrive in.

The Hedgerow Havens project has also created 12 new wildlife ponds and helped enhance eight hectares of land in and around Aylesbury for mammals such as badgers, insects like butterflies and especially farmland birds including kestrels, bunting and linnets.

The project worked with more than 100 volunteers and supporters from 11 different parishes, helped set up six new wildlife groups and worked with 19 landowners including farmers, homeowners, charities and estates. Among its successes was the creation of a 4.2ha wildflower meadow on the banks of the River Ray in Quainton.

Hedgerow havens project area map

Map showing primary focus area for the Hedgerow Havens project (brown) and secondary focus area (red).

Marcus Militello, BBOWT's Hedgerow Havens officer, said:

"We are so immensely proud of everything we have accomplished with this project over three-and-a-half years. It’s not just about hedgerows - the huge amount of valuable wildlife habitat that we have created, restored and enhanced will provide homes and hunting grounds for so many struggling species that we want to protect.

"Each of these areas forms part of the  jigsaw of connected spaces for wildlife that BBOWT wants to create across our whole area, to make sure our region can really sustain wildlife populations in the long-term.  And we’re so delighted that more than 100 people from all over Buckinghamshire are now truly invested in projects that are really helping local wildlife - and they now have skills and knowledge which mean they can carry on helping local wildlife for years to come."

Hedgerow Havens was launched in 2018 by BBOWT and what was then Aylesbury Vale District Council – now Buckinghamshire Council – with the aim of enhancing wildlife habitats in the rural farmed environment.

The project was funded through a Section 106 agreement between the council and Taylor Wimpey, when the developer was seeking planning permission for its Berryfields development in Aylesbury. Using that funding, the project team has run hundreds of events, ecological surveys and practical work parties.

In the village of Weedon, for example, the team recruited the parish council and residents to the project. They have since transformed a plot of land for wildlife by creating a meadow area, two ponds, 260m of new hedgerow and a hectare of scrubby area important for farmland birds, badgers, brown hare and barn owl.

The villagers have also this year created their own Wild Weedon conservation and wildlife group, putting on walks and talks and running practical conservation events.

Hedgerow Havens volunteers sow wildflower seeds along roadside verges near the village of Weedon. Picture: Marcus Militello

Hedgerow Havens volunteers sow wildflower seeds along roadside verges near the village of Weedon. Picture: Marcus Militello

Buckinghamshire Council Ecology Officer, Paul Holton, said:

“The Hedgerow Havens project has been a fantastic example of how development can contribute towards community-based wildlife enhancement projects. The funds secured through the planning process have enabled real conservation gains to be established on the ground. This would not have been achievable without the council's Ecology Department securing the funds in the first instance and more importantly without the time effort and energy of the BBOWT project lead finding the projects to establish the enhancements.

"New links with landowners, community groups and local residents have been established and long-lasting ecological enhancements have been established leaving a legacy for the communities they serve and the wildlife that will thrive in them. With Biodiversity Net Gain principles to be enshrined in the pending Environment Bill, this project has shown how developer funds can be used in a way to enrich communities and wildlife.”

Hedgerow Havens volunteers helping out with hedgelaying in the village of Whitchurch. Picture: Marcus Militello

Hedgerow Havens volunteers helping out with hedgelaying in the village of Whitchurch. Picture: Marcus Militello

Hedgerow Havens has also formed an important part of BBOWT's mission to see 30 per cent of land well-managed for nature by 2030. The Trust is actively working beyond its own nature reserves and in partnership with others like landowners, farmers, local communities, and local authorities, and these projects are critical in helping restore nature at a landscape-scale across the region.

The Trust and the council are both confident that the legacy of the Hedgerow Havens project will live on well past 2030, and are both hugely proud of everything that has been accomplished during the project.

All the project partners would like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who has been involved.

To find out more about how you can help wildlife in your area, visit www.bbowt.org.uk/get-involved.


Case studies

Find out more about Hedgerow Havens work in Whitchurch, Weedon and at Rectory Farm by following the links below.