Hedgerow Survey

One of the first projects that we have embarked on as Wild Roseland is a survey of our hedgerows. Hedgerows are a valuable wildlife resource because they form a network of habitats for a wide range of species across most of our countryside. These ‘corridors’ are good for wild plants, nesting birds and insects, which in their turn are important for bats and other animals. Cornish hedges are a particularly valuable resource, as they include earth/stone wall habitats as well as the shrubby hedges. However, hedgerows are under threat due to a combination of neglect, hedge removal (to make fields larger for modern agricultural methods and machinery), agricultural pesticides, the use and timing of flail cutting replacing traditional (but uneconomic) manual hedging methods, together with the decline in traditional hedge construction and laying crafts.
This is a long term project that will take some years to complete. In April 2016 Carol Hughes and Sue Pring began the task, starting in their home Parish of Ruan. They spent some time initially refining their survey methods, which was based on the standard survey methods used by ecologists but simplified for practicality. They also spent some time comparing historical and modern maps, to age and identify the oldest ones which, in theory, should be the most diverse and valuable.
In 2016 some 193 hedges were surveyed (in Ruan Parish), of which 61% can be found on the 1842 tithe map, with the oldest being 5 hedges that can be dated back to 1690. So we still have a good proportion of old historic hedges on the Roseland. The main hedge construction is still of earth or earth/stone bank. The majority of hedges have small trees, only a small minority having large trees, with 21 tree species recorded so far. In total 130 different plant species have been identified, averaging 20.3 species per hedge. In addition, stiles of differing traditional construction have been identified, which are also of historical interest.
It was clear from the start that they were going to need some help so in May and June Carol and Sue held workshops to recruit and train volunteers to assist. They now have others walking hedges in Ruan, Veryan and St Just in Roseland, but more volunteers are still needed! If you enjoy any excuse to get out into the countryside and would like to help with this project, please contact Wild Roseland.

Update 1st November 2018

To date, 364 hedges have been surveyed with the majority of them being in the parish of Ruan Lanihorne. It was found that over 85 percent of them could be traced back on maps to the 1800’s or earlier. The main construction had changed to stone faced but earth and earth/stone were not far behind. Over 50 percent of the hedges had more than six small trees but only 24 percent had more than six large trees. Only 42 percent of the hedges had a scrub top.

A recent comparison of two farms and a similar number of road hedges was done. The first farm was nearly all arable and the second farm was all grass and grazed by cattle. It was found that there was very little difference between the numbers of plants found in the hedges of either farm. One of the most interesting facts to come out of this comparison was that road hedges have a far better range and number of flowers than any of the field hedges.