In a bid to halt this decline and help government strengthen their hedgerow protection regime, the Countryside Agency has identified at least 36 locally distinctive hedgerow types which help create the character of England's rural landscapes.
Launching the hedgerow research on Tuesday, Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency, said: 'Hedgerows have become cherished features of our countryside. Not only are they important wildlife habitats, but their varied patterns and styles contribute to the character of our lowland landscapes. They define the 'sense of place', and often provide an important link with our past.
'The Hedgerow Regulations introduced in 1997 attempted to control the loss but we want to ensure that, when these regulations are amended later this year, the strengthened criteria will provide protection for a much larger proportion of hedgerows, in particular those that are distinctive in different parts of our countryside.'
A colourful poster has also been produced to raise public awareness of the importance of locally distinctive hedgerows to the English countryside and to the birds, insects and small mammals that depend on them for nesting, shelter and food. Examples include:
- distinctive 'shaws', in the Sussex Weald
- beech hedges which typify Exmoor and the Quantocks
- salt tolerant tamarisk of windswept coastal areas
- damson hedgerows in Herefordshire
- Deal Rows - abandoned hedgerows of Scots pine in Breckland
The Hedgerows of England poster and/or the research notes Locally distinctive hedgerows are available free from Countryside Agency Publications, PO Box 125, Wetherby, West Yorkshire, LS23 7EP or Tel: 0870 120 6466.
The research notes are based on a report on locally distinctive hedgerows to the Countryside Agency by Land Use Consultants (020 7 383 5784).
In 1947 there were approximately 660,000 kilometers of hedgerow in England in 2000 there are around 300,000.
The Countryside Agency is responsible for advising government and taking action on issues relating to the social, economic and environmental well-being of the English countryside.