A hedgerow is a boundary line of trees and/or shrubs less than 5 metres wide, which consists predominantly of woody native species.


Photo: Alison Wright

Why are they important?

  • Hedgerows are important landscape features, providing a route for species to travel along, a navigation aid for animals such as bats, and linking habitats together.
  • They provide shelter and food for animals using bordering habitats.
  • Many of Sussex‚Äôs hedgerows can be considered species rich as they have five or more native woody shrubs. They are often a refuge for woodland plant species.
  • Hedgerows are often adjacent to banks or ditches, or contain ancient trees, which increases their importance for wildlife.
  • Many hedgerows are ancient in origin, pre-dating the establishment of civil parishes. This also makes them of significant archaeological and cultural importance.

Hedgerows in Sussex

Sussex has numerous ancient hedgerows, particularly in the Weald where many were created by woodland clearance during the Middle Ages or earlier. Only around 5% of Sussex was affected by the Parliamentary Enclosures, and most of the hedgerows planted during this period are found on the Coastal Plain and the South Downs.

What are the threats?

  • A lack of management can result in deterioration of hedgerow structure; conversely over-management may also result in poor condition and loss of hedgerow trees.
  • Intensification of agriculture including use of herbicides and fertilisers close to hedgerow bases affects species composition and diversity.
  • Increased rates of stocking can cause damage to hedgerows through browsing and trampling of soil.
  • Removal for agriculture and development.

Some associated species

  • Noctule Bat Nyctalus noctula
  • Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
  • Brown Hairstreak Thecla betulae
  • Scorpion Fly Panorpa communis
  • Hazel Corylus avellana
  • Field Maple Acer campestre

Tree Sparrow Photo: P N Watts/Natural England

Further information and advice on hedgerows

National Hedgelaying Society
Natural England
Sussex Hedgerow Inventory Project
Sustainable Arable Farming for an Improved Environment

Sussex Targets

Biodiversity Action Reporting System Website

Download the Hedgerows Habitat Action Plan