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Event: Hedges, Trees & Ponds: Creating Wildlife Corridors


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November 21, 2022

We had another great turnout for our field trip to Hillside near Tuckenhay to look at the creation of wildlife corridors on a 22-acre site.

Landowner Mike Peary was our host for the day and the group, hailing from several South Hams parishes, also heard from Jasmine Atkinson and Jon Freeman from Saving Devon’s Treescapes.

Hillside sits within a varied landscape surrounded by farmed land, a naturally re-wooded valley, an organic permaculture area, and ancient woodlands. This places the land in a key position to connect these landscapes and for wildlife to flourish.

As Hillside is situated on a dry rock ridge, Mike has installed a sustainable water supply which catches rainwater into the large roof gutters and a gravity-fed pipe carries it to several tanks without the need for electricity. A total of 45,000 litres can be stored and piped into three wildlife ponds, creating water features and adding to the mosaic of habitats.

The ponds are already proving attractive to wildlife with snakes, toads and newts appearing, and more ponds are planned to enhance toad migratory routes. Mike has deliberately left large soil heaps, great for stoats and weasels, and has reinstated dry stone walls, leaving gaps for the tiny snails which are the favoured food of glow worms.

A few of Hillside’s fields have been left ungrazed to regenerate naturally, and Saving Devon's Treescapes provided a grant for a new wildlife hedge. To care for the young hedge, particularly through this year’s drought conditions, Mike used grass cuttings and Parrot’s Feather from the ponds as mulch.

Some hedges have been laid with the help of the Devon Rural Skills Trust, and some are not fenced off, allowing sheep to graze on the mixed foliage and shelter in the shade. Further new hedges have been planted through the Close The Gap scheme, with advice from Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South Devon.

All these new hedges help to connect up the various habitats for wildlife. Some of the hedge trees will be allowed to grow to full size to become ‘wildlife cities’; oaks in particular make great in-hedge trees, supporting over two thousand species.

Another area has been set aside for a new woodland with a mix of around thirty tree species, including some non-native Mediterranean trees which may thrive under future climate change conditions. The bulk of this wood is of trees which were transplanted from other woods on site, grown from seed, or donated by friends and family. The tree guards are made from wool and cashew nut husks, so will completely biodegrade.

A further area has been fenced off and planted with yellow rattle to create a wildflower meadow - this has been very successful, with over twenty butterfly species having been recorded.

It was wonderful to see the many ways in which this single area has been developed for wildlife including butterflies, bats, snakes, newts, toads and much more. The group also enjoyed some scrumping from Hillside’s orchards and tea and flapjacks in the farmhouse!

If you want to find out more about how to create your own wildlife corridors, you can sign up to the Saving Devon’s Treescapes seasonal e-newsletter and contact Jasmine Atkinson for more details of their schemes such as free trees for landowners, the community orchard scheme, landmark tree offer, how to apply for the kit to set up a micro-nursery, and general help and advice on planting trees and hedges for landowners.

You may also find useful resources at Devon Rural Skills Trust, the Devon Hedge Group and in Colin Clutterbuck’s report Britain’s Hedges Need to Grow Up.