Time to stop hedgerow maintenance

Time to stop hedgerow maintenance
Time to stop hedgerow maintenance

Under DARD Cross-Compliance rules hedge, tree or scrub cutting is not permitted during the bird nesting season between March 1 and August 31.

This means that all scrub cutting, hedge cutting, laying and coppicing operations must cease on February 28. This is to avoid damaging birds, their nests and eggs which is a provision of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (NI) Act 2011.

There is an exception to this requirement, where hedge cutting between March 1 and August 31 will be permitted if there is a health and safety issue, for example, roadside hedges.

However, to comply with the legislation, have a good look for nesting birds and chicks first, mark any possible nest sites and then proceed with caution. It is not necessary, however, to cut the ‘field’ side of the hedge each year – only cut the side which faces the road. Remember to clear hedge trimmings from footpaths and roads as they can cause lameness in livestock or puncture bicycle and car tyres.

Hedgerows that criss-cross our countryside are an important characteristic of our landscape.

naged hedgerows also provide valuable habitat for plants, insects, birds and mammals. A good hedge provides shelter for livestock and helps with disease control.

Cutting hedgerows every year to the same height shortens their life. The best cutting regime is to trim half your hedges every other year, or a third of them every three years. It is also good practice to leave some hedges uncut for five years, with just necessary light side trimming. Modern flail cutters can easily cope with more than three years growth of hawthorn. Managing hedges in this way will help keep them stock-proof.

Participants in DARD agri-environment schemes must maintain a variety of hedge heights, widths and shapes by allowing suitable hedges to grow uncut and not cutting any hedge more than once in two years.

Hedges are also valuable assets to many farmers who must meet the Ecological Focus Area element of greening under the Basic Payment Scheme. The aim of ecological focus areas is to safeguard and improve biodiversity on farms.

Further information on hedges as ecological focus areas can be found on the DARD website at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/.

Further information on hedgerow management can be found in the DARD Field Boundary publication which is available on the DARD website at

http://www.dardni.gov.uk/field_boundaries.pdf or alternatively, contact Countryside Management Delivery staff at your local DARD office.