‘Hedgefund’ New Scheme offers grants and guidance for farmers to help the UK’s threatened hedgerows

The Tree Council is leading Close the Gap, a partnership project with a year of activity to champion hedgerows and is asking farmers to get involved to boost biodiversity, tackle climate change and preserve the unique character of the English countryside. 

The 500,000 miles of hedgerows which patchwork across the nation are a major feature in our countryside and cultural heritage and the UK’s largest wildlife habitat. As well as looking beautiful in our landscape and providing essential services to agriculture, our often-unsung boundary hedges are increasingly being recognised for the crucial role they play in halting biodiversity decline and tackling climate change.

The Tree Council is leading Close the Gap, a partnership project with a year of activity to champion hedgerows and is asking farmers to get involved to boost biodiversity, tackle climate change and preserve the unique character of the English countryside. 

Sara Lom, CEO of The Tree Council explained, “As guardians of the land, many farmers have managed miles of hedgerows for generations. Now, more than ever, we need them to play a renewed role in planting, protecting, and restoring our nation’s hedgerows. We’re working with our partners the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) to offer new hedge management guidance and grant funding to plant 50km (32 miles) of new hedgerows and hedgerow trees with farmers next season. We’re thrilled the NFU is backing the project too”. 

Close the Gap aims to achieve bigger, healthier, better-connected hedgerows. A £500,000 Farming Hedgefund is available for farmers in England to plant new hedges, hedgerow trees and gap planting. Close the Gap will also provide durable tree ties for farmers to ‘leave their mark’ by tagging selected trees in their hedges to protect them to grow into mature hedgerow trees for the future.

As well as grants, farmers can access management information and advice for new and existing hedgerows, with actions that can save time and money on farm bottom lines as well as helping biodiversity and climate change. Surveying hedgerows (or allowing others to) with a new Healthy Hedgerows app will, with just a handful of questions, give management options for each hedge surveyed, helping farmers plan and manage a thriving network of hedgerows without adding to their busy workloads. 

Many farmers are aware that livestock and arable businesses benefit from healthy, well-managed hedgerows. They provide valuable shade and shelter for livestock and research in 2017 showed that for arable land, a good hedgerow boosts crop productivity by increasing the pollinators and beneficial predators around field margins. Hedgerows can also help reduce flood risk and provide natural flood defence to all types of farms including reducing soil erosion through run off. Research shows climate change has increased flood risk in England and Wales by at least 20%. 

Most of the public are not aware of many benefits of hedges so Close the Gap will be launching the first ever National Hedgerow Week later this month to help engage the wider public in our wonderful hedgerow heritage. 

Close the Gap is funded by the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. Project partners include The Tree Council, Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Moor Trees, University of Reading, Future Gardeners (Worshipful Company of Gardeners) and Hedgelink.

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