Reviving rural skills to benefit wildlife

OPOF hedgelaying 2016

Published Monday 9 May 2016

Volunteers in the New Forest are learning traditional rural skills to help revive the area’s hedgerows for wildlife.

Nearly 20 people gathered at Yew Tree Farm in Linwood, near Ringwood, at a recent training course to learn the traditional craft of hedgelaying. They received tuition from expert Andrew Birnie (correct) to mark the start of two exciting new projects in the National Park.

The New Forest Rural Skills project and the Better Boundaries project are part of a Landscape Partnership Scheme called Our Past, Our Future. The scheme is led by the New Forest National Park Authority in partnership with 10 key partners.

Participants spent the day learning how to lay a hedge and what materials and tools are involved. This training course was the first to be run within the New Forest Rural Skills project and was carried out on a 125 metre hedgerow scheduled to be laid as part of a wider project called Better Boundaries.

Hedgerows are important boundary features as they are food sources, habitats and corridors for birds, mammals and a range of insects such as butterflies and moths. The decline in native hedgerows across the UK is a threat to the continued survival of species, such as the hazel dormouse and the greater horseshoe bat, that rely on this habitat to survive.

Crucially, this decrease in hedgerows also causes fragmentation of important habitat corridors which need to link in order to successfully support wildlife. Managing hedgerows appropriately is vital to their long term survival as a valuable wildlife habitat and feature in the landscape.

Julie Melin-Stubbs, New Forest Land Advice Service Manager, said: ‘The course was fully booked and thanks to a friendly, enthusiastic group of New Forest commoners, farmers and landowners we laid 45 metres of hedge, mainly with traditional hand tools.

‘Everyone went away feeling that they had learnt a skill they could use on their own hedgerows, while meeting new people and contributing to the New Forest’s conservation and heritage.’

Local landowners, commoners and farmers are eligible for the upcoming course this winter and can express their interest by contacting Richard Austin on 01590 646661 or

A short video about hedgelaying and the Better Boundaries and Rural Skills projects can be found at

To find out more about the Rural Skills courses and for more information on the Landscape Partnership visit

Better Boundaries and New Forest Rural Skills are two of the projects being run by the New Forest Land Advice Service within the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Better Boundaries works with landowners in targeted landscape areas in the west of the New Forest to restore hedgerows and other boundary features to enhance and create wildlife corridors.

New Forest Rural Skills aims to give people the skills and knowledge to undertake rural, agricultural and conservation tasks through a programme of more than 30 courses a year. These courses are designed specifically for people in the New Forest in partnership with expert training providers including Sparsholt College.

The New Forest Land Advice Service was established by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Natural England in 2010, and is now also funded by the Verderers.


Notes to photo editor:

Volunteers lay a hedge in Linwood, New Forest during a training day organised by the New Forest Land Advice Service.

A short video about hedgelaying and the Better Boundaries and Rural Skills projects can be found at

Notes to Editor:

Our Past, Our Future

Our Past, Our Future is a Landscape Partnership Scheme for the New Forest which, supported by Heritage Lottery Funding, will undertake a range of projects to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest. The partnership focuses on the enclosed lands which surround the Open Forest.

The five year scheme is being led by the New Forest National Park Authority working alongside several delivery and funding partners, including the New Forest Land Advice Service.

For more information on Our Past, Our Future visit

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @HLFSouthEast

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 350 businesses.

The service offers:

  • A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley
  • Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups
  • Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit to find out more

Media Contact:

Beki Mole, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646639


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