Hedge event a great success

Our ‘Rediscovering Value from Hedges’ event on Thursday 1st November proved to be a great success! Even the weather was relatively kind, with the cold driven of by a plentiful supply of soup.

Hosted by Beau & Liz Dobson and parents at Stourtown Farm, Sampford Spiney, the event was supported by Dartmoor Circle, the Tamar Valley AONB and Cordiale project, the Silvanus Foundation, the Devon Hedge Group and the Tamar Community Trust … together with TRansition Tavistock.

Picture courtesy of Rob Wolton

We had a chance to learn about stone walling to rebuild a Devon bank, tree felling, laying a hedge, preparing fire wood and what to do with brash!

We also learnt about undertaking farm audits of hedgerows to assess their potential for wood fuel; heard about the Hedge Group volunteers in Cordiale undertaking hedge surveys locally; and how to go about setting up a small community group to work with farmers or land owners to manage a small area for firewood.

Lots of new connections were made … we’ll keep you up to date with the initiatives that result.

Andrew Shadrake, the Chair of Dartmoor Circle, described how people with woodburners could form a community group, and reach a farmer to harvest firewood, from which each would benefit.
Andrew: “The great thing about this initiative is that it can help farmers and people with wood-burners to work together, so they both benefit. It answers the practical questions people have. Farmers are rightly concerned that anyone working on their land is insured, and knows what they are doing, so they do not hurt themselves or, for example, leave gates open. People with wood-burners need to know they are insured, and that they are led by someone who understands how to fell, and lay hedges. Dartmoor Circle’s Woodfuel from Hedgerows Toolkit, gives all the information needed about forming a group, getting insurance, doing a risk assessment and reaching an agreement with a farmer. It even helps people identify different tree species in winter (The toolkit can be downloaded from Dartmoor Circle’s website, at http://tinyurl.com/d2a2bhm) .”
Andrew: “This is the first of our series of woodfuel from hedgerows events, and has set a very high standard for the others to live up to. We are very grateful to Kate Royston and colleagues from Transition Tavistock for organising it together with Simon Bates and Sam Barnes from the Tamar Valley AONB, and to Beau Dobson for hosting the event. I very much hope that now a group of people from the Tavistock area will form a group, which Dartmoor Circle and Transition Tavistock can support, to harvest wood. This will help maintain the unique heritage and biodiversity of Devon hedgerows, while reducing the cost of heating. “

Rob Wolton, Co-Chair, Devon Hedge Group: “The Devon Hedge Group has been very pleased to support the recent hedges and wood fuel event organised at Sampford Spiney, with funding provided to us by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Devon County Council and others. The group believes that managing hedges to produce a wood fuel crop is a good way of ensuring that our magnificent hedgerow heritage survives for future generations. Hedge laying or coppicing is an essential part of the management of all hedges, to keep them healthy, yet far too few are being rejuvenated this way and we are slowly but surely losing them. Laying and coppicing are usually thought of as uneconomic activities, being expensive and time-consuming. Yet recent research commissioned by the Tamar Valley and Blackdown Hills Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty has shown that hedges can be coppiced to produce a wood fuel crop in a very cost-effective manner – producing energy at half the price or less of buying in gas or oil. Done properly, management for fuel will benefit the hedges and their wildlife, help them to survive into the future, and result in a very green and sustainable form of energy. So the Devon Hedge Group is delighted that Transition Tavistock is exploring ways, with landowners and local communities, to make this become a reality. The Group is a forum of organisations and individuals interested in working together to promote the appreciation and conservation of hedges found across the county – for more information, please see http://www.devon.gov.uk/hedges.”

Pictures courtesy of Rob Wolton