Help us create wildlife corridors through our Thames Valley villages and landscape
The inspiration and leader of A Hedge in Time is Robert Crocker, who farms at Freeland and who hit the headlines five years ago with his idea of creating a continuous hedge, a wildlife-corridor between his farm in Oxfordshire and his brother’s farm in Cornwall. At the time, he described it as ‘deliberately bonkers and provocative - to get people’s attention’. Well, it did. And it has lingered in the imagination of those of us who live in the villages below his farm on both sides of the Thames.
At the Nature Recovery Network’s (NRN) Spring Gathering someone, remembering Robert’s idea, said we should realise the virtual connections between our communities by restoring and recreating the hedges between them. We could connect up the villages on the map with wildlife corridors on the ground.
Still bonkers? Perhaps, but following the NRN principle that we are here for the duration since we live here, and that nature takes time to recover, it could be realiseable if we take the long view.
Added to this, Long Mead’s Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project is creating a connected corridor of floodplain meadow habitat along the Thames between some of our villages. Restoring and connecting up a hedgerow network within this area will contribute to the mosaic of habitats of the floodplain ecosystem and it will connect to the river itself, which is Oxfordshire’s largest wildlife corridor.
So, the plan is to start where we can in our homes and villages and public spaces, working towards the river and each other, on public and private land. In Eynsham, Bartholomew student, Amelie Bird, has wonderfully plotted some potential hedge-planting sites as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award project.
With much of our ancient woodland gone, our dwindling hedges are the last refuges of many of our rarest species. Filling in gaps, restoring thickness by ‘laying’ and adding new stretches will allow them to move between the habitats they need for survival.
It feels like a beautiful realisation of the NRN’s connected network approach: Eynsham, Cumnor, Standlake and other local villages are coming together to connect up hedgerows. Wild Oxfordshire, who has been magnificently connecting up communities across Oxfordshire for decades is supporting us with hedgerow trees and know-how, through a series of webinars, as part of its Oxfordshire Hedgerow Heroes Project – for those who havn't been watching, these entertining and informative webinars are essential viewing before we begin the hedge-planting.
Our own local Wychwood Forest Trust is putting on a course for the project on the practical skills of hedge-laying for those who want to learn. Natural England is supporting the larger-scale work that will be done by professional contractors through the area of Thames Valley Wildflower Meadow Restoration Project.
So, if you have suggestions of where to plant, ‘gap-up’ or ‘lay’ a hedge in your garden or farm or public space, please let us know at: