A NEW ‘Healthy Hedgerows’ mobile phone app has been launched to help farmers manage and encourage their hedgerows.

Created by wildlife charity the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, the free app enables users to identify where hedges are within their natural lifecycle and offers feedback on how they can be best managed to ensure their continued health.

PTES hopes this will help farmers create a thriving network of healthy hedges that criss-cross the UK’s countryside, ensuring these hugely important habitats continue to benefit both those working on the land, but also the many species that call hedgerows home.

Habitats project officer at PTES, Megan Gimber, explained: “The quality and structure of hedgerows will deteriorate if they’re managed in the same way for long periods of time, and over time they will eventually be lost. The best way to prevent this is by managing according to their lifecycle, which may include more sensitive trimming, periods of non-intervention and, in time, rejuvenation.

“Whatever condition a hedge is in, it can be brought back to good health. Our new app pinpoints where it is in its lifecycle and the best management options to adopt to get the most benefit for the farm and its precious wildlife.”

The app is part of the new ‘Close the Gap’ project, a year-long programme focused on achieving bigger, healthier, better-connected hedgerows. It is a partnership project with The Tree Council, Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Moor Trees, University of Reading, Hedgelink, the Royal Parks Guild and the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

Close the Gap is funded by the UK Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. To download the app for free, visit the Apple Store or Google Play and search for Healthy Hedgerows.

Megan continues: “Hedgerows have been a pivotal part of our countryside since the Bronze Age. Tragically we lost about half of our hedgerows last century through incentivised removal, which makes those that remain even more valuable; it is imperative we keep them healthy.”

“Despite historic losses, we still have 500,000km of hedgerow habitat, much of which is incredibly old and has survived hundreds or even thousands of years, thanks to an unbroken chain of care, management and periodic rejuvenation. These have survived through careful management from generation to generation, farmer to farmer, through the centuries. The privilege and responsibility of managing hedgerows now falls to us, as we write the next chapter of their history books.”