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Talk to the hedge!

Author:  The Tree Council
Last Updated:  28/05/2021
National Hedgerow Week 2021

Inaugural National Hedgerow Week launches to give these unsung heroes of nature the recognition they deserve for their immense contribution to fighting climate change and biodiversity loss.

  • Hedges are brilliant at capturing carbon
  • UK’s largest priority habitat
  • 50% lost since WWII
  • The Tree Council and partners are calling on the nation and the 3 million new gardeners since lockdown to help save hedgerows

29 May - 6 June


The inaugural National Hedgerow Week aims to highlight the immense contribution these unsung heroes of the natural world make in the fight against climate change, biodiversity loss and urban air pollution. With 50% of hedges lost since WWII there has never been a more important time to get the country planting and protecting these wonderful mini nature reserves in our towns and countryside. The Committee on Climate Change has advised that the UK needs to plant 200,000km of new hedgerows if it is to meet our 2050 net zero target - that is the equivalent in length of half the UK road network. Healthy hedgerows are essential habitats for UK biodiversity, supporting over 2,000 species including the hedgehog and several European Protected Species, notably the dormouse, most species of bat, including the greater horseshoe bat, and the great-crested newt.

National Hedgerow Week from The Tree Council and partners will celebrate the wonderful variety of plants that make up our hedgerows - hawthorns, blackthorns, wild roses, brambles and more. With an estimated 3 million new gardeners since lockdown began, now is the moment to highlight the nature-based solutions hedgerows can bring to our environmental challenges. Throughout the week there will be a range of exciting hedge-inspired activities for volunteers and the public and the UK’s first All Natural Hedgefunds will be distributed. The Farming Hedgefund will grant £500,000 to landowners in England to help them fill hedgerow gaps and plant 30 miles of new hedges this winter. A Community Hedgefund will also be available for volunteer Tree Wardens and local groups to plant new community hedges.

To kick off the week, the TalkToTheHedge guide will invite people to get up close and personal, reconnect and talk to their hedge! For too long, hedges have been in the background of conservation, rarely getting the love of their taller cousins (the trees) and often referred to as messy, needing to be cut back, trimmed, chopped, or even ripped out. It's time to put hedges in the limelight and give them the praise and vocabulary they deserve. It's time to marvel at the underbrush, praise their fine pleaching and hunker down with the hawthorns.

The guide features words and phrases from across the country to bring some positive poetry and prose to compliment your hedge. Along with delving into the rich history of hedges, Talking to The Hedge is not only good for raising awareness of these fine habitats, it also gets you outside and of course is totally free! Check out the guide HERE to brush up on your hedginess!

Sara Lom, CEO, The Tree Council said:

“Words have the power to tell stunning stories and bring characters to life. That’s why language really matters when it comes to connecting with the environment and the natural world. Hedgerows are the hidden heroes and sleeping beauties of our streets and countryside and each has a unique tale to tell. Talk To The Hedge is a playful way to start an important conversation about these beautiful, bountiful, bustling habitats and their essential role in saving the planet”

Dr Michael Garratt, Principal Research Fellow, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading adds

“Hedges are great at capturing carbon and are an essential habitat for our wildlife - not only in the countryside but our towns and cities too. Urban hedges provide shelter, nest sites, food and movement corridors for wildlife and in the countryside, they are a key habitat for important species like bumblebees and beetles. Protecting and growing these fantastic little nature reserves is essential if we are to stop biodiversity loss and fight climate change. They are also wonderful for our mental health and talking to them really does raise a smile and a few eyebrows”

Taking part in National Hedgerow Week is simple and easy - you don't even need to own a hedge (although that helps!). The Tree Council recommends six ways the public can get involved:

  1. #TALKTOTHEHEDGE Get to know your local hedges and experience all the amazing things going on inside it. Tell everyone you know about how great these special microhabitats are - we've even created a guide to help you talk to your hedge!
  2. LET YOUR HEDGEROWS GROW Bigger and for longer - if you’re lucky enough to own a hedge, try letting it grow an extra foot - it supercharges your hedgerow's ability to capture carbon and air pollution, too. When you do have to cut back, don’t cut to the same place each time. Allowing an extra 4 inches each year will help blossom in spring and berries in autumn to form on last year's growth. It's illegal to cut hedges if the action damages active birds’ nests, so it’s best to cut in winter from November to February, outside the bird nesting season.
  3. WE LOVE MESSY BOTTOMS! The bottom part of the hedge is a haven for wildlife - don’t clear it of those lovely old leaves and wild plants that pop up there. But if you see any litter in a hedgerow, take a second to pick it out and dispose of it (recycling where possible). Rubbish causes problems for the wildlife living in the hedge AND gives hedges a bad name.
  4. PLANT A HEDGEROW If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, plant a hedgerow! It’s fine alongside an existing fence or railings. Plant a mix of native shrubs and trees for biodiversity benefit - nature loves a good selection! Hawthorn, hazel, dogwood, guelder rose, beech and yew are just a few of the wonderful species that are attractive in your garden AND encourage wildlife. If everyone planted or pledged 3 metres (9.5 feet) of hedgerow, we’d smash our national hedgerow targets. You can also apply for a grant to plant a hedge in your community.
  5. LEARN MORE ABOUT HEDGES AND BECOMING A HEDGEROW CHAMPION. Why not join us at one of our free Hedge Talks to learn more about hedgerows and how you can champion them?
  6. DONATE TO PLANT, PROTECT AND CARE FOR HEDGEROWS. If you can’t plant hedgerows yourself, let us do it for you by making a donation to The Tree Council’s ‘Pledge a Hedge’ campaign and help us champion hedgerows into the future. Donate £15 and you’ll be helping us to plant 1m of fantastic hedgerow. PLEDGE HERE

For further information, interviews with experts, imagery and filming locations please contact Holly Chetan-Welsh holly.chetan-welsh@treecouncil.org.uk or Louise Bowe at The Tree Council louise.bowe@treecouncil.org.uk