Help our hedgerows

England’s iconic hedgerows are home to some of our most vulnerable wildlife. We need to protect them.

Posted 5 min read
A footpath lined with hedgerow with a flock of birds fluttering to seek refuge.
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England’s iconic hedgerows are alive. The 500,000km natural network which crisscrosses pasture, meadow, valley and field is home to a horde of creatures great and small who use them to shelter, to feed and to breed. These hedgerows have been around for thousands of years, but at this moment they’re more vulnerable than they’ve been for generations. Old laws which once protected farmland hedgerows from being cut during the bird nesting season no longer exist. Although promised, no new laws have yet to be put before parliament. With nesting season here, we urgently need Government to act to protect England’s hedgerows, and we need your help.

Why are hedgerows important?

1. For wildlife

Healthy, well-managed hedgerows are brilliant for nature. For starters, they’re a great nesting site for birds like Bullfinches, Linnets, Dunnocks and Chaffinches. In the thicket of branches, Yellowhammers raise their brood, Hedgehogs snuffle for worms and wildflowers grow attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators. In summer, bats and Swallows skim over them hunting for insects, while in winter berries are food to Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings. In all, hedges support 130 priority species included in the England Biodiversity Action Plan – not bad for a boundary.

2. For dealing with climate change impacts  

Healthy hedgerows can lock up and store carbon at the same time as benefiting nature. It’s thought that England’s existing hedgerows store as much as nine million tonnes of carbon. If we were to restore and increase our hedgerows, they could help mitigate further the impact of climate change.  

Hedgerows can also play a key role in adapting to the risks caused by climate change, such as flooding. These natural barriers soak up rainwater, which can prevent flooding downstream. They can also help protect nutrients in soils from being washed away.

3. For business

But it doesn’t end there. It’s been shown that hedgerows can help create more productive farmland because of the beneficial insects that live in them. These can help with the pollination of crops and pest control. They also provide shelter and natural medicine for livestock and have been proven to reduce windspeed which protects crops.  

Recent research says for every £1 invested in UK hedgerow planting, £3.92 would be delivered back in benefits to the wider economy when planted in the right place. It also found that a 40% increase in hedgerow coverage across the UK would help create over 25,000 jobs over a 30-year period through planting and associated maintenance.

Fields lined with hedgerows with 2 horses in the foreground.

Why are hedgerows under threat?

Hedgerows in England used to be protected under regulations. These prevented them being cut during bird nesting season (1 March to 31 August) and ensured that a 2m buffer, free from cultivation or pesticides was left around them. But these rules officially ended on 31 December 2023. Following 7,000 supporters taking part in this campaign and contacting their MPs, on 4 March 2024 the UK Government reaffirmed their commitment to bring these crucial protections back in. However, until this legislation is tabled, and the protections bought into force, our hedgerows and the wildlife that relies on them remain under threat

What action do we want to see?

The good news is the UK Government has announced these rules will be replaced for England. But the bad news is we’re still waiting for them to be delivered. Landowners need clarity, so they can continue providing for us, and for nature. 

 RSPB Chief Executive, Beccy Speight, said:

Our hedgerows simply bustle with wildlife in the spring providing essential shelter and food for many species. As they criss-cross many of our much-loved landscapes, hedgerows provide benefits not only for nature, but for climate resilience and farm businesses too.

Yet the UK Government is stalling on ensuring that our hedgerows, which will soon be alive with nesting birds, buzzing pollinators and hedgehogs, remain protected in England. Putting hundreds of thousands of kilometres of hedgerows and buffer strips at risk is simply not acceptable in a nature and climate emergency. Government must recognise the urgent need to provide certainty and clarity to farmers and land managers who have for twenty years been required to buffer hedgerows and to provide a vital safe interlude for nesting birds. We need action, not just promises, in order to continue to protect our vital hedgerow network and avoid the risks of disturbance and loss."


Protecting our hedgerows, as Rebecca Pow MP, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Nature, rightly said last month, is a priority for the Government, and yet time is ticking for them to deliver on their promise to ensure farm businesses have clarity. 

Time is ticking and bird nesting season is here. We need to make sure plans to introduce new protections don’t stall any longer.

Yellowhammer perched on a bramble branch.

Will you help our hedgerows?

Together we must show the UK Government how vitally important hedgerows are for nature in England. The longer this gap in protections lasts, the longer species such as the Yellowhammer, Greenfinch and Hedgehogs are at threat. We can’t let this continue. Take action with us by writing to your MP calling for their support in the reinstatement of these vital hedgerow protections.

Help our hedgerows

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