Protecting Hedgerow Trees

Tagging hedgerow trees is a new initiative in Britain which aims to encourage young trees which are already growing in hedgerows, and protect them from the annual ‘short top and sides’ which most hedges receive in the spring or autumn. Most trimming of hedgerows is done in early spring or late autumn with a flail cutter mounted onto the back of a tractor, and these indiscriminately slash back everything in their path. The aim of tagging young hedgerow trees is to warn the operator of the tractor when he is approaching a tree masked within the hedge, so that he can cut around it and not trim the tree back to the same height or width as the rest of the hedge.

The estimated number of hedgerow trees in Britain exceeds 1.8 million, and around 80% of these are over 100 years old. Many of these will be lost over the next 50 years due to their age. The Tree Council of Great Britain has therefore launched a countrywide campaign to increase awareness of hedge trees to reverse their decline, and make people aware of the importance of hedgerow trees.

To re-establish trees in Britain’s hedgerows, approximately 10,000 volunteers intend to walk Britain’s hedges every year with the farmer’s permission, and to tag any young trees that they might find so that the next time that those hedges are trimmed the young tree can be allowed to grow on.

The Isle of Man Woodland Trust would like to establish the same scheme on the Island, and work with any farmer who is willing to allow trees that are already growing in his hedges to be marked. The Island is noticeably lacking in hedgerow trees, and we could well do with a scheme that allows these trees to come through and not be cut back every year.  Thousands of trees have already self-seeded or spread via bird and animal droppings and are growing in the hedges around the Island. What they need now is a chance to become established and show themselves above the rest of the hedge, and then after a couple of years they will be so obvious that the hedge trimmer will spot them in time and so be able to trim around them.

Anyone who feels that they could lend a few hours of their time to walk hedgerows in their locality or who know a farmer who might join this initiative, please get in touch with the Trust.