Features of hedgerow habitat

Many invertebrates, amphibians/reptiles, mammals and, in particular, birds are associated with hedgerows, including 83 national priority species.

Hedgerow bushes and scrub support foraging, feeding, and breeding, and give shelter and protection from predators, for many mammals and birds.

A number of lower plants, fungi and invertebrates are specifically associated with the hedgerow and hedgerow trees.

Mature and veteran trees in the hedgerow support a large number of lichens as well as feeding habitat for invertebrates (for example, the White-letter Hairstreak on elm), and roosting/nesting habitat for birds (for example, Tree Sparrow) and bats. Many species, including Spotted Flycatcher and Bullfinch, require both trees and scrub.

The base of hedgerows is important for: herbaceous plants, fungi, a number of birds (for example, Grey Partridge, Yellowhammer which nest close to the base of hedges) and amphibians / reptiles (for example Common Toad, Great Crested Newt and Grass snake which move along, forage within and over-winter in the base of hedgerows and associated ditches).

As well as the hedgerow itself, herbs and grasses close to hedgerows on the hedge bank provide nectar, pollen for bumblebees, seeds and invertebrates for birds, and shelter and cover for mammals and amphibians/reptiles. Many of these species rely on both the hedgerow and the adjacent habitats to complete their life cycles. As such the quality of the hedgerow and the hedge-bank are very important.

A matrix of open fields, scrub, and woodland are required by a number of species, particularly mammals and birds which need an abundance of invertebrate and/or plant food and these range over larger areas.

The best hedgerow habitats include older trees; a number of woody species; and a broad grassy margin.

Hedgerows are significant features of the landscape. They are a key habitat for many species of conservation concern, and are especially important for invertebrates such as butterflies and moths. Many mammals and birds use hedgerows for feeding, breeding, shelter and a refuge from predators. Hedgerows often support a rich flora at their base and act as wildlife corridors for many species, allowing movement between other habitats.

Priority habitat details

Hedgerows are a local priority habitat because of their national status, the plants, animals and birds supported, and opportunities for their conservation in Barnsley.

The UK BAP (2007) definition of the hedgerow priority habitat includes all hedgerows with 80% or more of at least one native woody species of tree or shrub. This has been adopted as the local priority habitat definition.

Ancient &/or species rich' hedges were the only ones in the original pre-2007 definition; a ‘species-rich hedge’* being a hedge with at least four different native tree or shrub species.

The national hedgerow priority habitat is defined as boundary lines of trees or shrubs over 20m long and less than 5m wide, and where any gaps between the tree or shrub species are less than 20m wide.

Any bank or ditch associated with the hedgerow is part of the hedgerow habitat, as is the herbaceous vegetation in the hedgerow bank.

That said, gappy hedgerows and tree lines have a value for wildlife, as do other boundary features.

The best hedgerows in Barnsley for biodiversity are ancient hedgerows and more recently planted ‘species-rich’ hedges*, although other hedgerows also have have value.

Ancient hedgerows are likely to contain veteran trees, associated deadwood, and a rich basal flora of herbaceous plants. In some cases they may include remnants of ancient woodland.

They will have been in existence before the Enclosures from 1750 to 1860. The thin straight hawthorn hedges of the Enclosures support less biodiversity, as do hedges of beech, privet, yew or non-native trees.

The most abundant hedgerow tree or shrub in Barnsley is Hawthorn, but a variety of other tree and shrub species are often present, including Dog-rose, Blackthorn, Elder, Hazel, Wych Elm, Ash and Holly. Spindle and Wild-service tree are occasionally present.

The more diverse hedges include a variety of typical woodland or woodland edge plants, such as Honeysuckle, Dog's mercury, Red Campion, Wood Anemone, Primrose and Bluebell.

21 important hedgerows have been identified in the Barnsley area: 13 species-rich old lanes, six species-rich hedgerows and two hedgerow banks. Only one, Black Lane, Tankersley, is listed as a Local Wildlife Site.

Legal protection. Under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, it is against the law to remove or destroy hedgerows that meet criteria that relate to the value of the hedgerows from an archaeological, historical, landscape or wildlife perspective, without permission from the local planning authority.

Barnsley Council supplementary planning document (2012) for more information.



Hedgelink - hedges and wildlife

Hedgelink - Hedgerow Survey Handbook


Natural England

Managing for Species 2011

Hedgerows & the Law (Natural England)

CPRE on Hedgerows

Barnsley Council supplementary planning document (2012)

Species supported by hedgerows in Barnsley

Mammals found in hedgerow habitats include Badger, Hedgehog, Brown Hare, as well as mice, voles and shrews.

Bats: A number of bat species use hedgerows  for foraging and routes.

The loss of linear landscape features such as hedgerows, restricts routes from roosts to feeding areas.

Common pipistrelle bats make extensive use of hedgerows; Soprano Pipistrelle however only make similar use of hedgerows with trees. The provision or retention of hedgerow trees benefits these bats.

Bird: Tree Sparrow, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Spotted Flycatcher, Linnet, Grey Partridge,  Barn Owl.

Amphibian: Common Toad, Great Crested Newt

Reptile: Grass Snake

Butterfly: White-letter Hairstreak

Hedge laid for future biodiversity.

Our key objectives for biodiversity in hedgerows must be to:

*Specifically … populations and mapping of breeding Cuckoo, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Bullfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer.

*all known and potential White-letter Hairstreak sites in hedgerows.



Landowners, including farmers, private estates, public bodies, and trusts: manage their hedgerows for wildlife, following best practice; take up opportunities to restore or create new native species-rich hedgerows.

As well as being a landowner, Barnsley Council is the planning authority with the responsibility of administering the hedgerow regulations in Barnsley.  

In planning decisions Barnsley Council can also set conditions to ensure that the biodiversity value of existing hedgerows is maintained and potentially enhanced.

Natural England administers the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which offers voluntary 10-year agreements for managing and restoring farmland habitats including hedgerows.

Funding funding under the Single Payment Scheme requires hedgerows to be kept in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC)

Voluntary groups and volunteers can help with hedgerow management where appropriate as well as with community hedgerow laying schemes.

Local naturalists, groups and volunteers can help provide records to the Barnsley Biological Record centre of the condition of our hedgerows and of the wildlife that is supported by them.  Analysis of these records can help with conservation.

Actions taken

Proposed actions

Factors causing loss or decline

Good practice. Hedgerows are best sustained by laying on a 8-15 year cycle. Flailing and cutting hedgerows requires careful timing and method to provide a diverse hedgerow habitat and good hedgerow structure. Repeated frequent cutting leads to thinning of the hedge base.

National targets aim to maintain the net extent of hedgerows and the number of individual, isolated hedgerow trees as well as ensuring that hedgerows remain at least as rich in native tree and shrub species.

They also include a target for hedge-rows being in ‘favourable condition’ and for reducing the proportion of hedges trimmed annually.

Halting further decline in and improving the condition of herbaceous hedgerow flora is also a priority.

Hedgelink and the Hedgerow Survey Handbook give information on what constitutes favourable condition.

Bats hunt for insects along hedgerows and use them as commuting routes; they also roost in holes in old trees.

The decline in numbers.

In the last century from 1945, there was a drastic loss of hedgerows through removal and neglect across the country.

By 1998 the decline in the length of hedgerows reported in the 1980s had been halted although less than half the hedgerows were species-rich.

Neglect and a lack of positive management continue to have a major impact on hedgerow sustainability.

LWS including hedgerow

13 North Wood

27 Carlton Marsh

30 Short wood and Hay Green

33 Red Brook Pastures

57 Swaithe Flood Meadows

58 Wool Greaves Meadows

LWS including species-rich hedgerow

32 Hood Green Pastures

44 Black Lane (Hedgerows)

Hedgerows and Local Wildlife Sites

The LWS selection criteria are based on a higher threshold than the pre-2007 BAP priority habitat definition:

We would welcome your comments
Your email address will not be public.