‘Only connect’ (by Keith)

Recent news that the dormouse has been reintroduced to Wensleydale 100 years after they were last recorded there is part of move to try and reverse their drastically depleting numbers which has seen them classed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species https://ptes.org/campaigns/dormice/ .

Dormice depend on well-managed interconnected woodlands and hedgerows for their survival. They are entirely arboreal and to ensure a healthy gene pool and access to sufficient food, aerial routes between copses and hedgerows are crucial to their survival. Changes in woodland management, farming practices and developments which fragment habitat have all taken their toll.  Good woodland management and the reintroduction of coppicing isn’t just good for dormice but benefits invertebrates, birds and plants too.

Working alongside ecologists on projects such as Dunsbury Hill Farm, Havant we at terra firma have helped to create vegetated underpasses beneath bridges to allow dormice to cross roads and installed self-closing gates in hedgerows to mitigate unavoidable hedgerow fragmentation. The hedgerows themselves contained a special ‘dormouse-friendly mix’ of fruiting and climbing species to ensure food, nesting materials and plenty of aerial pathways.

Hedgehogs, once common garden visitors, have also seen their numbers decline by ‘at least 50% in fifteen years’. Reasons for this plummeting population include urban development and a rise in badger numbers. Hedgehogs need to forage a wide area for food each night and securely fenced and tidy gardens effectively block their route and reduce the amount of food available.  Removal of hedgerows and grassland to field margins also impact their survival.

On a recent urban housing schemes we specified ‘hedgehog holes’ to the bases of fences to allow hedgehogs to move freely and find food and a mate. These holes are easily cut to the base of an existing fence or alternatively manufacturers are now producing specifically designed gravel boards with pre-cut holes http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/pages/link-your-garden.html

Interconnectivity, at the heart of green infrastructure, and crucial to the survival of all species is something we can all play a part in, whether as consultants on big commercial schemes or in our own back gardens.

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