A super-highway for wildlife, made up of three kilometres of newly-planted hedgerows, is being created at a remote Eryri (Snowdonia) landscape, boosting the prospects of endangered birds, bats and other rare mammals.
The hedges will create corridors that connect the landscape at Y Foel to larger woodland spaces, and offer a lifeline to a host of woodland species such as Lesser Horseshoe Bats, who use hedgerows as ‘commuter routes’ after dark to find their way to feeding areas and roost sites.
Hedgerows are also vital for birds and wildlife, providing much-needed ’service stations’ on the historic slate landscape where they can nest and feed, benefitting a wide range of species including the tree sparrow and cuckoo, both of which are on the Red List (in decline) in the recent Birds of Conservation Concern Wales report.
Dunnock, bullfinch and fieldfare, which are included on the Amber List – indicating a moderate concern of decline – can also benefit from these hedgerow habitats.
The project is the first in a series of works on the remote 1,600-acre (647 hectare) site, contributing to the conservation charity’s ambition to boost the area’s wildlife populations, help tackle the climate emergency, and safeguard the landscape’s remarkable cultural heritage.
The hedgerows are being established through a collaborative effort of a forty-strong group, which included members of the local Cwm Penmachno community, National Trust staff, and representatives from Natural Resources Wales, Eryri National Park and Llais y Goedwig.
Trystan Edwards, General Manager for Eryri (Snowdonia) at National Trust Cymru said: “Foel provides a canvas for us to heal climate harm and create wonderful spaces for nature to thrive at a time when it is needed the most.
“The new hedgerows will criss-cross the landscape, echoing the historic land boundaries, and have huge benefits for wildlife by providing food, shelter and nesting space for many species.
“Our close working relationship with the community and partner organisations paves the way for Foel to play a leading demonstrative role in land management, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work together in the years to come.”
The hedgerows will stretch to the length of 30 football fields and once established, they will benefit nature, people and climate by connecting habitats, capturing carbon and helping to reduce flooding in the local area.
In the future, the hedgerow highways will also support rare mammals such as dormice and pine martens as well as more common animals like hedgehogs, weasels and field mice as wildlife corridors.
Looking ahead, Trystan Edwards continues: “An exciting future lies ahead, with plans for nature-friendly grazing, blocking man-made ditches in deep peat allowing them to function naturally to store carbon rather than release it, and restoring rivers.”
Will Bigwood, Farm Manager at Foel adds: “Along the upper reaches of Foel, we’re planning to improve the heath and moorland habitats.
“These places will become an ideal nesting and feeding place for other Red List birds like the hen harrier, golden plover and red grouse.
“On the ffridd fringes we plan to introduce cattle to graze the slopes.
“The cattle are experts at keeping vegetation like bracken low, allowing for other plants to grow.
“This is a great and natural way to maintain the habitat and ensure a wider variety of wildlife.”
As a fully restored habitat, the ffridd and hedges will become excellent carbon stores and will also help to alleviate flooding in the local area, helping to slow the flow of water from the peat covered hilltops to the lowland valleys below.
This project will complement National Trust’s Upper Conwy Catchment project – the largest scheme of its kind in Wales which works to slow the flow of water to reduce risk of flooding and create rich habitats to tackle climate change.
The hedgerow saplings were given to Foel through the My Tree Our Forest’ initiative. In partnership with Coed Cadw, the Woodland Trust in Wales, the Welsh Government are offering a free tree to each household in Wales.
Through the Plant a Tree for Me scheme, the Trust is planting trees on behalf of people who don’t have the space to plant their own.