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The Happy Hedgerow by Elena Mannion, illustrated by Erin Brown

This evocative story follows the life of a hedgerow – and the creatures that live amongst its branches, roots and leaves – through the course of a year. Throughout the book, Elena Mannion skilfully highlights the importance of this vital habitat, while celebrating the beauty of the natural world.

Old Oak lives at the centre of an ancient hedgerow that runs along the edge of an arable field. Together with his neighbours, he works hard to provide a safe haven for the wildlife that shelters within the hedgerow's trees.

But one day a neighbouring hedgerow is cut down, leaving just one ancient beech tree standing alone in the field. Old Oak fears for the animals fleeing the destruction, and is dismayed to watch the soil being washed away during heavy rainfall – but hope is restored one cold winter's morning, when a new farmer comes along to plant

hedgerow saplings.

Erin Brown's gorgeous, detailed illustrations portray the wealth of wildlife that hedgerows support – from birds, butterflies, and beetles, to foxes, mice and moles.

Spring, summer, autumn and winter are beautifully depicted, creating a richly coloured celebration of the seasons.

This is the first children's book devoted to the wonderful, humble hedgerow – one of the UK's most important habitats. As well as providing homes, food and shelter to all kinds of wildlife, hedgerows soak up carbon dioxide, prevent soil erosion and help minimise flooding.

Hedgerows and the field margins that run alongside them also create wildlife corridors – offering a safe space for species to travel from one area to another.

Unfortunately, despite many welcome farmland replanting initiatives, overall we've lost hundreds of thousands of miles of ancient hedgerows since the 1950s.

The Happy Hedgerow explores these issues in a gentle, poignant way – bringing to life this glorious feature of our rural landscapes, while exploring the themes of cooperation, empathy, and hope.

The book provides a starting point for discussions about the role of humans in protecting and restoring nature, making ethical decisions, and caring for others.

The Happy Hedgerow is a timely reminder for both young and old of the importance of treasuring and protecting our rural heritage and landscapes – and how, by working together, we can begin to restore these crucial habitats and help the wildlife that depends on them.

The Happy Hedgerow is published by Pikku Publishing and costs £10.99.