Green Plan Update: Watlington’s Hedgerow Project

Following the success of Nicola Schafer’s Hedgerow Film and the amazing work of the dedicated team of volunteers surveying all the hedgerows in the parish, we are delighted to be progressing to the next stage, taking practical steps to improve the local hedgerow network.


Hedgerows matter for so many reasons. They provide vital wildlife habitats and connect areas of woodland which might otherwise be isolated. They provide effective stock-proof barriers and define the distinctive patchwork of much of our countryside. They act as wind barriers, can ameliorate the effects of flooding, and capture and store carbon both above ground and in the soil.


The Watlington Green Plan group, including WEG and WCAG, is keen to restore some of our local hedgerows and create new hedgerows for the future. We are excited to be part of the Oxfordshire Hedgerow Project; thanks to funding through the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), technical advice from Nigel Adams and the support of Roselle Chapman (Community Ecologist at Wild Oxfordshire), we can now commence the practical work.


We will be starting the groundwork in November when, with the support of the Charity Trustees who own the field, contractors will coppice some of the neglected hedges in West Meadow.


Coppicing is a traditional method of hedgerow management that exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their base when cut to the ground. This work can rejuvenate hedgerows and safeguard them for the future. Traditional hedges were laid every few years, a skilled process that invigorates the plants and prolongs their life, as seen locally in the town car park.


The hedges around West Meadow haven’t been managed for many years so they now need the more dramatic intervention of coppicing. The plan is to restore the hedge along one side of the field and tidy the other one to ensure a mixture of habitats. The larger pieces of cut wood will be available to take away as firewood and the smaller material will be chipped for use on-site as a mulch, thus returning carbon and other nutrients to the soil.


Once the contractors have completed the coppicing, we will be filling the resulting gaps with new hedge plants and we will also plant a new hedge on adjoining land to connect with existing hedgerows. Some of the larger existing plants will be retained as hedgerow trees to maintain both their habitat and landscape value.


This project is being led by community groups and we will be looking for volunteers to plant hedge plants and a few young trees; please contact us if you would like to get involved with this exciting project – fionadanks@gmail.com.

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