A £500,000 Farming Hedgefund is available for farmers in England to plant new hedges, hedgerow trees and gap planting.
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 halt biodiversity decline, tackle climate change and preserve the unique character of the English countryside.
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.
Sara Lom, chief executive 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, 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.”
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.
Healthy, well-managed hedgerows provide great benefits for livestock and arable businesses.
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%.
ELM scheme option
Hedgerow planting and management are two of the public benefits explicitly mentioned as part of the upcoming new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which will replace existing agricultural payments in the coming years.
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.
Farmers wishing to register interest in Close the Gap hedgerow grants or find out more should email email@example.com or phone Emily Stacey at FWAG on 07854 323 349.
The first National Hedgerow Week will run from Saturday 29 May to Sunday 6 June 2021.
More information will be available from The Tree Council and Close the Gap partners in the coming weeks.