April - Green Plan Update
MP in our neck of the hedges
A good hedgerow is much more than the sum of its parts; it is an entire sustainable ecosystem. That also very much describes the Watlington hedgerow project, an amazing collaboration of local groups and individuals all of whom have contributed their skills and enthusiasm with such willingness and openness. CPRE (The Countryside Charity, formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England,) has been delighted to facilitate the most recent stages of the project, with the support of our partners Wild Oxfordshire.
In 2021 CPRE launched a campaign to increase the UK’s hedgerow network by 40% by 2050, raising money to fund projects in five counties, including Oxfordshire. They also approached several MPs to become ‘Hedgerow Heroes’, to increase awareness and encourage government involvement. George Eustice (Secretary of State for the Environment) was interested and wanted to visit one of CPRE’s projects. CPRE nominated Watlington, seen as an exemplar project which CPRE hopes will play a role in spreading the lessons learnt to parishes across the county.
On 3rd March on a dry sunny morning, George Eustice came to meet CPRE and members of Watlington Climate Action Group (WCAG), Watlington Environmental Group (WEG) and many of the local volunteers who recently planted native hedge plants in West Meadow. George joined over 30 people to look at the West Meadow hedge restoration work. Our local hedge expert Nigel Adams informed the Minister of the history and benefits of good hedgerow management and explained how the community had supported the local initiatives, coming out in rain or shine to help. It was inspirational to hear Nigel speak up and push firmly for practical, sustainable, and relevant policy ideas. In bright sunshine, George planted an oak tree, sourced from our local nursery Babylon Plants.
Once the oak was safely planted everyone trooped through the town, rather like a school trip, to the Spire and Spoke tepee for presentations and to watch the premiere of an amazing new film by Nicola Schafer on the Watlington Hedgerow Project. The tepee also displayed information boards and Helena Hedgehog, the wicker hedgehog created by Andrea Brewer for the Green Plan Art Trail last August. A wonderful spread of tea, coffee and cakes provided great sustenance.
This event gave Watlington the chance to shine, to show those with influence in Westminster that, we the voters, care about our local environment and that we have the commitment and the local knowledge to make a difference. We were able to show how local groups, including the Parish Council, can work together with common objectives to make a tangible difference to our environment. The large group of people that attended was a sure sign to the Minister that Watlington is hot on hedges.