Hedgerow Hopes Project

Hedge laid at Mossley Mil

Hedgerow Hopes is a partnership project between four local councils; Antrim, Belfast, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey Borough Councils, to celebrate and promote the biodiversity importance of our native hedgerows through the involvement of local people.

Hedgerow Hopes is an exciting new project linking the four council areas and promoting the importance of our native hedgerows.

The project aims to conserve, restore and enhance a minimum of 5km of hedgerow across the four councils. To pass on vital, traditional skills in biodiversity to land managers, groups, children and individuals through hedgerow management and associated learning by delivering 38 training sessions/workshops/family events across the partnership areas.

To engage with 1840 people through the 4 councils areas to learn of the biodiversity importance of species-rich hedgerows, associated flora, fauna and local heritage through training sessions, workshops and practical conservation.

Within Northern Ireland, species-rich hedgerows are important for a number of UK priority species, identified as part of the UK BAP programme, including red squirrel, common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), soprano pipistrelle (P. pygmaeus), linnet (Carduelis cannabina), reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus), spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), tree sparrow (Passer montanus), bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), song thrush (Turdus philomelos) and purple ramping fumitory (Fumaria purpurea). In addition a number of Northern Ireland priority species utilise hedgerows, such as whitethroat (Sylvia communis) and barn owl (Tyto alba). (Source: NI HAP for Species-rich hedgerows, April 2003).

This project will focus on the restoration and maintenance of a wide range of hedgerows; from traditional field boundaries in agricultural land or open green spaces to hedgerows in school grounds and parks. The project will involve a wide range of groups across the 4 council areas to restore, survey, manage and learn more about this habitat.

By involving local people; community groups, schools, individuals, youth groups participants will become involved in conservation in a very practical way while learning about the local heritage, the value of hedgerows for biodiversity, biosecurity and traditional skills such as hedge laying and foraging.

In December 2012, Newtownabbey Council ran two workshops in the traditional craft of Hedgelaying with David Thompson from The Hedgelaying Association of Ireland (http://www.hedgelaying.ie/).

Council parks employees and interested individuals from the area were invited to take part and gain the knowledge and experience of the traditional hedgerow management practice. The spot chosen for the first set of workshops was in Mossley Park, rejuvenating new growth and life back into an already aging hawthorn hedge.

What is Hedgelaying?

Hedgelaying is the art of cutting a stem partly through at ground level so the tree can be bent over without braking and continue to grow from the base of the cut. The trees are then laid and arranged to form a living barrier then staked into place where necessary to  stabilise the hedge. The laying of hedges was a traditional practice for farmers here in the winter months to continue to stock proof their hedges, long before barbed wire was invented!

If you have an interest in hedgelaying, hedgerow conservation or just a general love of the outdoors and local wildlife then do get in touch! There will be other workshops and events running in 2013 to promote the project and increase awareness.

For more information please contact: Lindsay Matthews; lmatthews@newtownabbey.gov.uk / 02890 340069.

The Hedgerow Hopes project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (www.hlf.org.uk), ‘Your Heritage Programme’.