Cornwall Wildlife Trust maps Cornish Hedges

Thursday 14th June 2018

Delabole hedge by Jocelyn Murgatroid

Cornish hedges have been an intrinsic part of Cornwall’s landscape for thousands of years, and with an estimated 30,000 miles of hedges in Cornwall creating a map of the entire network was a huge undertaking, but it has now been done by Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

Using advances in technology and satellite imagery, ERCCIS (Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly), Cornwall’s local environmental record centre, has now identified hedge features across the Cornish landscape and mapped them, which is vital in ensuring their protection and sustainable management for years to come. They have also launched a new mobile app Online Recording Kernow and Scilly - ‘ORKS’ to enable local people to take part in this important work, which can be downloaded from Google Play or iTunes

The Hedge Map will provide a wealth of information for research, conservation and sustainable management of our wildlife and habitats. It will provide an understanding of how different species use habitats and interact with the wider landscape and help protect isolated populations.

The ORKS app will enable everyone to share sightings of flora and fauna along their local hedgerows. This information and photographs can then be used for conservation and research.

Unlike the classic English Hedgerow, which is protected under UK law not only as a habitat, but also, in its function as a wildlife corridor. Cornish Hedges are not protected, which means they are at risk from destruction and development.

Hedges link a network of habitats and enable otherwise isolated species to move freely among them. With ancient woodland habitats in decline, hedges provide sanctuary and act as wildlife corridors to areas that were once interlinked. Hedges are important habitats in their own right, with each section of the hedge supporting a multitude of flora and fauna.
 

Some hedges date back to the Bronze Age when fields and commons were divided into small enclosures for livestock and they vary around the county depending upon climate, available materials, and local farming practices. From the granite boulder walls of West Penwith, the coastal hedges lichen-dressed or carpeted by Thrift, traditional Cornish hedges topped with Hawthorn, all the way to the green lanes of east Cornwall with laid and coppiced Hazel hedges.

Unlike a hedgerow which is a row of trees and shrubs, the Cornish Hedge holds a wealth of importance in its construction and building and it is still regarded as a hugely valuable skill today. Built wide at the base, often with a verge or a ditch and narrow at the top and always with local materials, the Cornish hedge generally has a compacted soil middle with either stone or turf face with a grassy top that supports a shrubby hedgerow on top and often trees including oak, ash, sycamore or elm.