The project originated in response to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit whereby those 170 + countries attending agreed to set up benchmarks for their identified priority issues in the areas of flora, fauna, landscape and habitat as part of their Local Agenda 21. In England and Wales this became the responsibility of local authorities.
An environmental forum (the Greenprint Forum) was established and in 1998 appointed a hedgerow working group to survey all landscape hedgerows in every parish in the district to record, for the very first time on such a wide scale, every hedgerow excluding towns, villages, private gardens, woods and forest.
The working group set up its working method, issued some local publicity, inherited a trial run which had virtually collapsed no sooner than it had started, set up training for volunteers from the parishes and launched the project which ran continuously for 12 years until the final parish survey was completed in January 2012.
The survey was required to record the location of every landscape hedgerow with every different species of trees and shrubs, with some special data regarding the trees, the structure of the hedgerow and a description of the land usage on both sides. The survey was confined to being a quantitative record with absolutely no comment on quality of the hedgerow, management, cutting regimes or value to meet farming requirements, etc.
Very soon as the project gathered pace, so English Nature, MAFF and Suffolk County Council realised the enormous potential of the surveys and we were asked to extend the project to cover the whole of Suffolk but still within the same timeframe. This triggered the launch of the Suffolk Hedgerow Survey.
The data collection part of the project ended at the end of 2011, by which time 317 parish surveys had been completed, providing data on 38,295 landscape hedgerows.
Over time the Suffolk Biodiversity Records Office at Ipswich Museum became involved, for whom our records 'massively enhanced' their database for ultimate upgrading of their Geographical Information System.
It was at this and later stages that it soon became evident that there are many spin off benefits arising from the data recorded, for example, where the connectivity and corridor value of hedgerows could be improved by specific replanting and where new hedgerows could be planted to add even more value for wildlife as well as the mainstay benefits for the local farming industry.
Analysis of the data enables landowners, parish councils, tree wardens and environmental working groups in parishes to see how their parish fits in with their peer group under the Landscape Character Assessment type, soil type, etc and are then enabled to see which plant stock would serve best for replanting with the optimum chance of growing on successfully.
At district level the data has already been of value to local authorities in the planning arena acting as another tool to help with environmental risk assessments, damage limitation and replanting requirements set down as conditions of licence where species rich hedgerows were endangered or removed by the planning applications.
The survey report is therefore a reward for the 2,400 volunteers who helped in the survey, especially for the parish hedgerow survey coordinator and the local parish councils that participated in the project.
It also has a shelf life of 50+ years in order to act as a reference guide on how to conduct a hedgerow survey should parishes require to see how the landscape hedgerow network has improved over the intervening years.
You can view the final survey report by following the link below:
You can also view an extract from the presentation given at the press launch of the survey report at Endeavour House on 13 December 2012. It gives a summary of how the Suffolk Hedgerow Survey came into being, how it developed into a countywide project, and an insight into the valuable data it has provided: