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Hedgerows have suffered a dramatic decline in recent decades. They have been cut out to expand arable land, and wrecked by poor cutting regimes; but they are valuable to wildlife and humans. They provide food and shelter for birds, animals and in some cases humans. They also act as wind breaks and can help minimise the effects of gales.
A good hedgerow is made up of a variety of species, designed to provide flowers, pollen and fruits at different times of year.
Blackthorn blossoms early in the year, allowing bees to feed as soon as spring arrives. It the produces fruit (sloes) in late summer and early autumn for birds to eat.
Hawthorn is similar to blackthorn. It produces blossom a couple of months later, and the berries appear later in the year, ensuring a food supply is available into the winter.
Bramble is the plant where we get blackberries from, but the flowers also provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies. It is a favourite of the white-letter hairstreak and small tortoiseshell butterfly. Some butterflies also drink the juice of damaged berries. Blackberries are also eaten by wood mice , bank voles, foxes and many birds. Tits and bullfinches enjoy the seeds, and moths enjoy the leaves. The bush provides cover for hibernating comma butterflies, and nest sites for birds and hedgehogs.
Native wildflowers have an important role in supporting wildlife.
Pollinating insects (bees, butterflies, and hoverflies) all rely on the flower nectar for food. Different species of insect prefer different types of flower nectar, so it is important to have as wide a range of flowers as possible.
What is a wildflower? Any plant that grows naturally in our countryside. These can range from our little favourites such as bluebells and forget-me-nots, to larger plants like foxgloves, and even thistles and dandelions. All of them provide something for our birds and insects. Just watch a flock of goldfinches go into a feeding frenzy when thistles are in seed.
Wildflowers in Churchfield: There are at least 19 species of wildflower in Churchfield. Just a few examples are: Common knapweed, (resembling a thistle, its nectar rich flowers are loved by many butterflies and day flying moths); Ragged robin (the wide open flowers allow bees and hoverflies to easily get to its nectar); Bird’s-foot trefoil (its bright yellow flowers are a favourite of the common blue butterfly); and the Oxeye daisy (much larger than the common daisy, it is a favourite hiding place for a crab spider, waiting to catch an unassuming insect coming to gather nectar).
Did you know? Some plants and flowers are parasites, using the roots of other plants to supply the nutrients for them. The yellow rattle growing amongst the wildflowers in Churchfield is one such plant. It gets its nourishment using the roots of the grass, which in turn will help to slow down the rate of grass growth.
Ash trees are a magnificent sight in Churchfield and they bring huge benefits to nature. The ash tree produces winged seeds known as “keys”. They fall to the ground and are spread by birds and animals. These seeds are eaten by many finches and are a special favourite of the bullfinch.
Ash tree leaves are a source of food for some moth caterpillars, including the coronet, brick, and privet hawkmoth. Deadwood from a tree acts as habitat for the lesser stag beetle, and the tree bark often grows algae and lichens, on which many insects and caterpillars feed.
Did you know? Ash trees can live for up to 400 years old. The Ash is “The Tree of Life” in Norse mythology, and even today is sometimes called the “Venus of the woods”. They were believed to have mystical and healing powers, and ash wood was burned to ward off evil spirits.