Managing hedges for wildlife at Carmel National Nature Reserve

The team have been busy this winter undertaking hedge management to benefit both wildlife and public safety.

This winter WTSWW have carried on with our hedge management program at Carmel National Nature Reserve. Here, we have mature roadside hedges that need managing to maximize their wildlife potential, but also from a road safety point of view. All too frequently land managers resort to using a mechanical flail in these situations which is bad news for the hedge. Repeated annual cutting creates big gaps in the hedges, where the trees are slowly killed off or left deformed and unhealthy. Hedges in this state are poor habitat for the huge variety of species that relay on them.

A huge thank you to our volunteers!

By reintroducing the traditional art of hedge laying we are creating a safe haven for invertebrates, birds and small mammals. We are bringing the hedgerows into a 7 year rotation, where each winter we lay a different section. These newly laid hedges regenerate the trees from their base, and create a denser, tighter and more wildlife friendly hedgerow full of nesting and feeding potential.

This winter we started off laying with the Carmarthenshire volunteer group. When we went into lockdown, Wildlife Trust staff stepped in to finish off the hedge, wanting to get it all laid ahead of bird nesting and when dormice might be waking up from hibernation. There was also a section next to a busy A road that was given to a professional hedge layer to complete. The style used for the majority of the hedge was a traditional crop and pletch style that is seen in this area of Carmarthenshire.

A short section of about 20 meters in the corner of the field was laid in the Breconshire style by the professional hedge layer. This is an elegant style that really looks special. Done in the most visible section of the hedge, it showcases this dying craft. We hope to encourage other landowners to manage their hedges more sympathetically, for the hedge and all the wildlife it supports.

Rebecca Killa, Wildlife Trust Officer