WITH MORE than half of England's rural hedgerows having been lost since 1945, a flagship project has been launched to plant three miles of new hedging.

The Hampshire Hedge project was launched by The Countryside Charity (CPRE) on Tuesday, November 21 on the Compton Farm estate just outside of Winchester and ecology students on a land management course were joined by more than 80 guests for the hedge planting task.

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CPRE Hampshire hedgerow project officer, Ellie Banks, said: "It is great to be starting the planting element of the project, our target is to plant three miles of new hedging this year, which is 25,000 whips going into the ground this winter.

"We will also be laying ½ a mile of existing hedge. Hedge laying involves the cutting and weaving together of saplings to encourages dense new growth at the base. They intermingle to form a natural barrier which provides food and shelter for birds and animals."  

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The three-year project will connect the South Downs National Park with the New Forest National Park with a network of hedgerows creating new and restored habitat and a green corridor vital for nature. 

The hedgerow is planned to wind its way for about 14 miles through central Hampshire parishes and will link woodlands, meadows, local nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). 

Hampshire Chronicle: Crewenna hard at workCrewenna hard at work (Image: CPRE)The project will engage with local communities and schools and create hedge-laying apprenticeships, encouraging people to volunteer and will also run training days raising awareness of the importance of hedgerows. 

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Ellie added: "The big problem in this country is that wildlife is fragmented on 'islands' and unable to get between those habitats, so hedgerows can provide that connectivity."

"We are keen to work with communities and volunteers along the route. We have organised regular events and would love to hear from people if they want to get involved."

CPRE Hampshire wanted a project that celebrate the county's high-quality landscape with its two national parks and three areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBS).

By linking the two national parks together, an important landscape and wildlife feature is created that can form a part of the nature recovery strategy for the county. 

Find out more on the website cprehampshire.org.uk