Habitat Action Plans

Ancient and species-rich hedgerows


Ancient hedgerows tend to be those which support the greatest diversity of plants and animals, and are defined legally in the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 as being those which were in existence before the Enclosure Acts, and specifically before 1875. Species rich hedgerows are generally taken to be those which contain five or more native woody species in an average 30 metre length. Hedges, which contain fewer woody species but have a rich ground flora of herbaceous plants, are also included, as are recently planted species rich hedges. Where hedges are associated with a green lane, ditch, bank or verge, these features are also considered to form part of the hedgerow.

Hedges vary enormously around the country; they generally consist of a line of shrubs, sometimes with trees and usually with a layer of herbaceous vegetation beneath. The field margin is that area at the edge of a cultivated field; it provides a transitional or "buffer zone" between the crop and the hedge or field boundary, as well as being of value to wildlife itself.

Hedgerows are important habitats for at least 47 species of conservation concern, including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining species. Associated UK BAP species are bullfinch, linnet, reed bunting, tree sparrow and turtle dove. Hedgerows are especially important for butterflies and moths, the smaller farmland birds and dormice, while hedgerow trees are an important habitat for the larger birds and bats and dead wood invertebrates. They also act as wildlife corridors for many species, including reptiles and amphibians, allowing dispersal between habitats.

Current status


There are estimated to be 450,000 km of hedgerows in the UK, of which 190,000 km is ancient or species rich. The main areas are the south west of England, south Wales and Northern Ireland. Between 1984 and 1990 22% of hedgerows were lost in the UK, today this loss has slowed but is estimated to run at 1.7% per year by removal and 3.4% per year by neglect.


The Yorkshire and Humber region is estimated to have around 37,400 km of Ancient and / or species rich hedgerows (Selman, Dodd and Bayes, 1999).


In Calderdale Hedgerows are more abundant in the east of the district, in the Coal Measures Natural Area, with drystone walls being more common towards the west, in the Southern Pennines. Hedges have often been engulfed by the growth of urban areas and can be found within pockets of encapsulated countryside. Survey work is essential to determine the extent, quality and distribution of hedges within the district.

Current factors causing loss or decline

Current action

Legal status

Priority species associated with this habitat

Pipistrelle Bat, Dunnock, Linnet, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Intermediate Enchanters Nightshade, Sherad's Downy-rose.


1. Policy and LegislationLead PartnerOther partners
Ensure that UDP policies are in place to protect ancient and species rich hedgerowsCMBC (DP)CMBC (CAFU)
Consider the impact on ancient and species rich hedgerows when assessing planning applicationsCMBC (DP)CMBC (CAFU)
Enforce Hedgerow Regulations 1997CMBC (DP)CMBC (CAFU), EN
Ensure that the best examples of hedgerows are designated as SEGIsWYECMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DP)
Take opportunities through the planning system to restore or create hedgerows. Explore long term management agreementsCMBC (DC)CMBC (CAFU)
2. Site safeguard and managementLead PartnerOther partners
Improve hedgerow and field margin managementFWAGDEFRA, NFU, CLA
Promote the conservation management of hedgerows across farm holdings through the promotion of Whole Farm PlansFWAGRSPB, NFU, CLA, DEFRA, EN, CMBC (CAFU)
Encourage the planting of hedges with native species of local provenanceNFUCMBC, FWAG, DEFRA
Encourage the planting and retention of native standard trees in hedgerowsFWAGNFU, CMBC (CAFU)
3. Research and monitoringLead PartnerOther partners
Carry out survey work and involve local groups in monitoring hedgerows. Ensure that surveys are all carried out with the same methodologyHSSWYE CMBC (CAFU)
Maintain sites databaseWYECMBC (CAFU), HSS
4. AdvisoryLead PartnerOther partners
Disseminate information on best management practice and the importance of such areas to owner / occupiers and developers (leaflets)ENFWAG, RSPB, CMBC (CAFU), CMBC (DC)
Arrange training courses in hedge-laying, managementCMBC (CAFU)BTCV, FWAG
5. RegionalLead PartnerOther partners
Develop a demonstration area to show best management practice al/Regional)FWAGNFU, CLA, DEFRA, RSPB
6. Communication and publicityLead PartnerOther partners
Promote an awareness amongst the public and land managers of the importance of hedgerows and their associated features and for the need for appropriate managementFWAGATC, CMBC (CAFU)
Publicise sources of advice and grant aid for hedgerow management, including Countryside StewardshipFWAGCMBC

Key to abbreviations
ATCAlternative Technology Centre
BTCVBritish Trust for Conservation Volunteers
CLACounty Landowners and Business Association
CMBCCalderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
CMBC (CAFU)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Countryside and Forestry Unit)
CMBC (DC)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development Control)
CMBC (DP)Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Development and Policy)
DEFRADepartment of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
ENEnglish Nature
FWAGFarming and Wildlife Advisory Group
HSSHalifax Scientific Society
NFUNational Farmers Union
RSPBRoyal Society for the Protection of Birds
WYEWest Yorkshire Ecology

Plan Coordinator: Hugh Firman, Conservation Officer

Last Updated: 30/09/2016