Farmers and landowners in the North York Moors have benefited from grants totalling £64,400 last year to plant and restore hedges and dry stone walls. The funding came from the National Park Authority’s Traditional Boundary Scheme (TBS) which was set up to assist the maintenance of these key characters of the local and national landscape and its Habitat Connectivity programme which aims to link up and improve important habitats.
This year’s grants will support the restoration of over 2,600 square metres of dry stone wall, the planting of 2,330 metres of hedgerow plus around 560 metres of coppicing and laying of existing hedgerow. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, these traditional features provide boundary markers and shelter for stock, help to reduce soil erosion and provide homes for wildlife across the National Park.
Martin Dawson-Brown received a grant to assist in laying 194 metres of mixed hedgerow at Low Askew Farm, Cropton. The hedge which includes hawthorn, wild rose, field maple, wild pear and honeysuckle, was planted in 2001 on the site of a much older boundary. He said:
The hedge is not covered by our stewardship agreement but we feel it is a key feature of the farm so were very pleased to get the grant from the National Park Authority. It is one of a number of hedges we have planted over the years – all with wildlife in mind by choosing species that produce berries for birds.”
Hedgelaying is traditionally carried out in the autumn and winter when the plants are dormant. Importantly this also avoids the bird nesting season. A country craft which has been widely practised for hundreds of years across Europe, hedgelaying has largely disappeared apart from in a handful of countries including the UK. It involves partially cutting through the upright stems of shrubs, bending them down and weaving them around stakes driven into the line of the hedge. There are around ten different regional styles of hedgelaying within the UK including a ‘Yorkshire style’ which is traditionally very narrow, laid flattish and no more than three foot in height.
David Perry from Robin Hood’s Bay carried out the hedgelaying at Low Askew Farm. He also restores dry stone walls. He explains that 30 years ago, hedgelayers were something of a dying breed but that now, thanks to grants like the TBS and increased environmental awareness of landowners, there has been a renewed interest in hedgelaying.
Many farmers and landowners recognise the wildlife benefits and the shelter for stock that a well maintained hedge provides. Hedges act as wildlife corridors for a range of birds and animals that will not normally cross expanses of open land, provide nesting sites for birds and are an important food source for many creatures. In addition, the wall and the hedge are an underpinning visual characteristic of the landscape of the British Isles.
“I love what I do. Every new job takes me to a different area, often to places I’ve not visited or spent time in before and I get to be out in the countryside observing wildlife – for example I’ve watched buzzards at Low Askew almost every day. I’m supposed to retire next year, but I can’t see me giving up my final career unless forced to by infirmity!”
Mr Brian Hope of High House Farm near Sutton Bank received funding over the past two years to restore 260 metres of dry stone wall. He said:
Getting the grant was a very simple process and has transformed a dilapidated eyesore into a good secure boundary for our stock. The wall is very visible from the road and a footpath and we’ve had several walkers remark on how nice it looks.”
Despite considerable cuts to its core funding, the National Park Authority is hoping to offer the TBS grants again next year to help with the cost of rebuilding dry stone walls and planting or restoring hedges that are unlikely to be restored under existing agri-environment schemes. More information on the grants can be found at www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/tbs
Kirsty Brown, Conservation Project Assistant at the North York Moors National Park Authority who looks after the TBS, said:
I would like to thank all the landowners and contractors who have undertaken work to restore and reinstate valuable boundaries in the North York Moors this year. Various dry stone walls in the National Park are believed to go back to the Iron Age or earlier, with some on the coast being noted from Viking times, while some of our hedgerows are remnants of ancient woodland margins.
“In addition to supporting our local farms and benefitting wildlife, upkeeping our walls and hedges has an economic element too in making the area more appealing to visitors. The National Park Authority is keen therefore to do what it can to continue to support these traditional boundaries.”