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Hedgerows are great for wildlife, but they're disappearing across the UK. Planting hedgerow trees can help – and will provide a tasty harvest!

August and September mark the start of the foraging season, and Britain's hedgerows offer up a veritable feast. Blackberries and crab apples are ready to pick and can be used to make wine, jellies and jams.


Rosehips are at their best in October, after being softened by the first frosts. Made into syrups and sauces, rosehips are a good sauce of vitamin C – so good, in fact, that during the Second World War volunteers were sent out to pick them, to be made into bottles of vitamin-rich syrup at a time when many fresh fruits were in short supply.


Elderberries are full of nutrients, too, and can also be turned into syrup that was traditionally used as a cure for coughs, colds and flu. In fact elderberry syrup has been used medicinally for centuries, and when you look at the health benefits of the berries, it's easy to see why. They are high in vitamin C, as well as being a good source of potassium and vitamins A and B; and they are also said to be high in antioxidants, to strengthen the immune system and to lower cholesterol.

Elderberry syrup can also be used like maple syrup, poured over pancakes or ice cream. It can be diluted with cold water to make a refreshing drink, or added to champagne for an unusual cocktail.

Hawthorn berries

Other hedgerow goodies found in autumn include sloes, hawthorn berries or hazelnuts. Actually finding a hedgerow, though, could present a challenge. Since the Second World War, they have been rapidly disappearing from the British landscape – a result of changing farming practices, development or neglect – with up to 50 per cent gone in some parts of the country.


This is having a dramatic impact on the nation's biodiversity. Hedgerows are one of the most significant wildlife habitats we have. They provide food and shelter for hundreds of different species of mammals, birds and insects, and act as corridors for creatures to travel safely from one area to another.

Dormice, bats, butterflies and birds all rely on hedges. Birds like dunnocks, robins and wrens nest in the impenetrable thickets provided by blackthorn and hawthorn. Blackthorn flowers early in the year, so is valuable for hungry insects emerging from hibernation.


So planting a hedge is a great way that gardeners can boost biodiversity. As well as creating a more attractive boundary than a fence, a hedge can keep out unwanted intruders – human or fox. Planting a hedge is cheap and easy to do, too.


And if you choose your hedging plants carefully, you can grow your own edible hedge. As well as blackberries, elderberries and crab apples, try damson, cherry plum or wild pear. Hazel will provide protein in the form of nuts, and blackthorn produces sloes – mixed with sugar and gin they make a fabulous liqueur.


Within just a couple of years of planting, an edible hedgerow will provide you – and countless creatures on your plot – with an annual feast that's delicious, nutritious and free.

The benefits of

Little Green Space August 2018

Hazel catkins offer early nectar to insects, too, and later in the year hazelnuts are a welcome feast for many animals, particularly squirrels, who will gather the nuts and stash them away to eat during the cold winter months.


The fruits of many hedgerow trees and shrubs – blackberry, dog rose, holly and hawthorn, to name a few – provide food for mammals such as hedgehogs, foxes and mice. And birds such as thrushes, fieldfares and redwings rely heavily on hedgerow berries as a winter food source.