Hedge Surveys

The survey of hedges is an important means of assessing the stock and quality of hedges within particular areas. There have been a variety of approaches to this, ranging from simple mapping exercises to very detailed species assessments. The variety of approaches, while allowing community groups, individuals and specialist ecologists to be involved, has meant that the opportunities for matching results is limited. To address this, Defra and English Nature, through the Steering Group for the Biodiversity Action Plan for Species-rich Hedges, contracted the creation of the Hedgerow Survey Handbook.

Defra gave 10 grants to a range of organisations around 2002 to test the Survey Handbook. One area surveyed was the Gordano Valley in North Somerset (we hope to mount details here soon). In February 2006, Defra held a meeting to discuss the results of the surveys and to launch a project to revise the Survey Handbook. In addition to the survey techniques already devised, the new Survey Handbook will include a much quicker assessment of hedge condition. The assessment of "condition" is needed, in order to assess if the quality of English hedges are improving or declining. The new Hedgerow Survey Handbook is now available at:

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130123162956/http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/landmanage/landscape/documents/hedgerow-survey-handbook.pdf

Defra have commissioned a new project to survey farmer and contractor attitudes to hedge managment. Defra reference BD2117 at: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=16517&FromSearch=Y&Publisher=1&SearchText=hedge&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder=Asc&Paging=10#Description
To quote:

Good hedgerow management is promoted by Defra and Natural England through Agri-Environment Schemes and free conservation advice to farmers but poor management (including total neglect and over-management) is still widely recognised to be a serious problem. The reasons for this are poorly understood so there is a need to find out from farmers their attitudes towards hedgerow management.

Research needs

A previous study undertaken by ADAS and completed in 2000 provided valuable insights into farmer and contractor attitudes towards hedgerow management. These results are now 8 years old and a new agri-environment scheme in England, Environmental Stewardship (ES), has since been introduced. Over 50% of agricultural land in England is now under ES agreement and take-up patterns are demonstrating the popularity of hedgerow management options. There is therefore a need to update the survey and to determine whether agri-environment schemes have had a significant and sustainable impact on attitudes and management.

Countryside Survey was repeated in 2007 and collected systematic information on hedgerow condition from a sample of sites across Britain. However, the Survey did not include direct examination of possible causes of unfavourable condition of hedgerows. Therefore, this farmer and contractor attitudes study will be an important complementary source of information to pin-point reasons for the unfavourable condition of hedgerows and, as a consequence, the kinds of management that need to be promoted to rectify the problem. Defra's Hedgerow Survey Handbook provides further details about hedgerow condition.

The results of the proposed study will improve understanding of the causes of poor hedgerow management, suggest recommendations for actions to bring improvements to current practice, and assist cost-efficient targeting of future Defra efforts in this area. As Defra's agri-environment research programme also covers Welsh interests, attitudes towards hedgerow management in Wales also need to be addressed.