Volunteers lay hedges for Cornish wildlife

Volunteer groups from Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Council have teamed up to lay a stretch of new hedge at Millennium Woods near Penzance. The result is a dense, living hedge which provides shelter, food and nesting sites for animals.

Hedge laying is an ancient craft, where the stems and trunks of small trees and shrubs are shaved to about a quarter of their original thickness using a billhook or axe, to form a hinge. The plant is then folded over while it keeps growing and in time it sends up vertical stems which themselves are laid over too.

David May, Practical Tasks Officer with Cornwall Wildlife Trust led the task. He says,

“I was impressed with how quickly the group learned a new skill and crafted a decent length of hedge in just one day. It was great to see both groups working together to get more done, learn from each other and socialise. I hope it’s the start of more joint ventures between the Trust and the Council.”

Work on hedges

The joint venture was in support of the Council’s Green Infrastructure for Growth (GI4G) project, which is running for three years to make space for nature in public recreational areas, roadside verges and old churchyards. At Millennium Woods, the project team will be working with the local community to create glades, improve access and plant more diverse species at the ground level.

Cornwall is famous for its Cornish hedges and these stone-faced earth banks line many of the fields and roads. Plants colonise and grow out of the cracks, making these great for wildlife, but opportunities for laying hedges are less common and these add to the mix of wildlife habitats in the county. The wonderful and endangered dormouse will readily live in a laid hedge, especially one crafted from Hazel. Taking opportunities for hedge laying also keeps this rural craft alive, spreading the skill amongst enthusiastic wildlife volunteers.

The Trust works to protect Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places, so it made sense for the two volunteer teams to team up for mutual benefit. Volunteers do a huge amount of hands-on conservation for Cornwall Wildlife Trust, from pulling out invasive species like Himalayan Balsam, monitoring water quality and scything to control bracken. They are a vital part of the Trust’s Upstream Thinking project, where their help on farms brings wildlife benefits and also helps build bridges with the farming community.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust wants to hear from new volunteers, contact cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/volunteer or call 01872 273939. To volunteer at Millennium Woods contact millenniumwoods@p-e-n.org.uk. Find out more about Green Infrastructure for Growth by contacting GI4G@cornwall.gov.uk.