A three-year project to improve the state of more than 600 miles of Canal & River Trust hedgerows is already bearing fruit. We took a moment with environment project officer Linda Butterworth to find out more about this mammoth maintenance effort.
Can you tell us a bit more about the project?
The Helping Hedgerows project began three years ago following a desire to maintain the hedgerows on our property in a more sustainable way. Gaps had begun to appear and the overall condition of the hedgerows needed a boost. It’s important we look after them because hedgerows are a natural border to our waterways and provide a safe habitat for birds, bats, dormice and other wildlife – they are a vital green corridor along our waterways. With funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, we started off with a health check, then formulated a plan for getting the hedgerows back up to scratch. We also worked to identify volunteering opportunities before getting stuck in to the task of improving the hedgerows themselves.
What has the project achieved?
It’s been a tremendous success so far. The health check gave us a much better picture of our hedgerows’ status and our plan ensured we targeted the areas that needed help the most. Working with local communities, ecologists and volunteer groups, we agreed priority areas and called out for volunteers. The response was amazing. A thousand people – from canal adopters and youth volunteers to rowing club members and corporate volunteers – gave up their time to help boost the health of our hedgerows. In all, volunteers from 57 groups have helped spruce up nearly 20km of hedgerow. We also ran 23 training days for 188 volunteers to teach skills such as hedge laying, planting and gapping up, which they can now use in future volunteering projects. The project is a great example of people working enthusiastically together to protect and enhance their environment. We were also shortlisted for two Waterways awards, being a finalist in one and runner-up in the other. A real accolade to all the volunteers’ hard work!
What’s next for the project?
Having completed the People’s Postcode Lottery-funded project, we are now investigating ways of securing resources to continue enhancement work on the hedgerows. Our aim is to kickstart further interest in the project to provide a more sustainable way of looking after what is a vital part of the canal network and the British landscape.
How can people get involved?
We couldn’t do this without volunteers and we’re incredibly grateful to all those who have got involved so far – so thank you! If you’re interested in helping out or finding out more about what you can do to help our hedgerows, you can visit the volunteering section of the Canal & River Trust website, where you’ll find everything from work rebuilding towpaths and talking to visitors to warmer inside work in the archives. We also have a growing number of opportunities for employee team days. Another way to find the right opportunity is to follow @crtvolunteers on twitter where we share regular updates.