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Dorset CPRE President, Kate Adie and Chair, Neil Matthews both joined John Calder on a frosty January 2024 morning to sample the delights of the GBDH survey process in Chilfrome near Maiden Newton
Dorset CPRE President, Kate Adie and Chair, Neil Matthews both joined John Calder (from left, GBDH Project Manager) to sample the delights of the GBDH survey process

England’s hedgerows offer a valuable habitat for wildlife, amongst many other benefits, and we’re working to protect them and create more.

Hedgerows are the vital stitching in the patchwork of our countryside. Not only are they beautiful, with shifting seasonal colours, but they also benefit wildlife and the wider environment. They store carbon and help slow climate change.

One in nine of the UK’s most vulnerable species are often found in hedgerows. These include the hazel dormouse and the much-loved hedgehog, whose decline has been closely associated with hedgerow loss. They are disappearing fast; 50% of the hedgerows in England have gone since the Second World War.

We think they need protecting, and support the Climate Change Committee’s call for a 40% increase in the extent of hedgerows by 2050 to help address the climate emergency.

So what can be done?

CPRE has been campaigning for hedgerows for nearly 100 years to draw public and government attention to the value of hedgerows. We commission research, reports and respond to consultations.

We want the government to work with the landowners who own hedges, and with local councils, to create thousands of miles of new or improved hedgerows – as well as better protecting the ones we have already.

In July 2021, CPRE launched a campaign calling for the government to set a national target to increase the hedgerow network by 40% by 2050, as recommended by the Climate Change Committee. The campaign for a national hedge-planting and restoration target saw success in 2023 when the government committed to create or restore 45,000 miles of hedgerows by 2050.

CPRE’s hedgerow campaign was awarded first prize in the Animals and Environment category at the 2023 Charity Awards.

CPRE has produced a pocket booklet on ‘A little rough guide around the hedges‘ to share some history on hedgerows and encourage more people to care about them. There are many species of tree that are particularly suited to hedging such as hazel, hawthorn and blackthorn.

Hedgerows protection

The hedgerows where not given protection until 1997 thanks to a long CPRE campaign. The first legal protections for ‘important’ hedgerows – the Hedgerows Regulations – were finally created. This means that landowners have to tell local authorities if they want to remove one that’s over 20 metres long or that joins another hedgerow. You can download a PDF of the pocket guide from CPRE’s website or contact us for a printed copy.

Great Big Dorset Hedge surveys
Here in Dorset we have the Great Big Dorset Hedge (GBDH) initiative, a Dorset Climate Action Network project, to facilitate the restoration and extension of hedgerows the length and breadth of Dorset. Teams of volunteers help survey the hedgerows of Dorset, and very crucially help to collate and manage the mapping of these surveys and the data each survey produces.

Dorset CPRE has recognised that the GBDH project is at a crucial stage of growth and increased effectiveness. In December 2023 the Trustees agreed a £6,000 funding request for the project to sustain the momentum as they manage further growth and in recognition of the ambition and potential of the project. Please visit the GBDH webpage If you would like to join volunteers on future surveys.