Caption: A volunteer identifying woody species as part of a hedgerow survey © Graham Jackson-Pitt.
Last year saw the beginning of the Hidden Hedgerows project as part of the Rusland Horizons Landscape Partnership Scheme. The project is being delivered by Cumbria Wildlife Trust and local volunteers who together are carrying out surveys that record the physical and management characteristics of hedgerows, as well as the woody species which make up the hedge and hedge bottom flora.
Hedgerows are found throughout the lower lying parts of the Rusland Valley, not only are they an important part of the landscape and part of our farming heritage. They have also been identified as important habitats (particularly old and species-rich ones) however nobody knows exactly how much hedgerow we have, let alone what proportion of it is old and species-rich. A survey is needed to find out how much there is and what condition the hedges are in. This will help target where resources ought to be used to improve the hedgerow network for biodiversity. It will also be important to establish a baseline of information so that we can monitor change and see how these aspects of hedgerows vary over time.
Training sessions have been held during spring of both 2016 and 2017. These provided volunteers with the opportunity to learn how to identify the woody species found in hedgerows and practice the survey methodology required to take part. During the forthcoming summer months volunteers will be mapping where the Rusland Valley’s hedgerows actually are and recording information such as hedgerow length, height and width.
In late 2017 it’s hoped we will be able to produce not just a complete hedgerow map for the Rusland Valley but also reveal some of the hidden secrets of this key feature from the landscape.