The blossom season is in full swing! The landscape is bursting with beautiful flowers and the air is heady with their scent. The region’s fields, hedgerows, verges and orchards are humming with busy pollinators getting to work and it is looking like it might be a vintage year.

When you look out across the southwest landscape the view is one of a network of hedgerows of various species, sizes, shapes and conditions: a wonderful hedge wide web that has a deep connection, perhaps an almost symbiotic relationship, with the patchwork of orchards that fill some of the spaces in between. 

Hedgerows and orchards are important to wildlife and biodiversity as, together, they represent a ‘woodland edge’ habitat with trees, scrub and pasture features. They support species common to each such as fieldfares and redwings that are famous for feasting on hedge and orchard fruit over winter. Some insects that are known to pollinate apple trees, as well as the rare species that live in the old rotten features of veteran trees, find it difficult to travel long distances so the wildlife corridors that connected hedgerows provide across the landscape are vital. 

Hedgerows can benefit orchards by providing shelter from extreme weather, a pollinator habitat, pest and disease control, a stock proof barrier and a buffer to the impacts of neighbouring agricultural activities. If hedgerows are not managed correctly however, orchards suffer from negative effects. Large overgrown boundaries cause excessive shelter that reduce wind speeds, create frost pockets and increase opportunities for fungal diseases. Unmanaged hedgerows encroaching into the orchard can also result in overcrowding and shading which limits fruit tree growth and reduces the sward’s diversity of flowering species.  

A recent study found that apple tree pollination is carried out by wild bees when honeybees are drawn away from orchards by another flowering crop in the locality, such as oilseed rape. It is therefore essential that a high-quality habitat for wild bee and other pollinator species, such as a hedgerow, is available as close as possible to orchards.

When creating new or maintaining existing hedgerows and orchards it is important to consider their natural partnership as this will help to identify common issues that relate to each habitat or what could be seen as the ‘single’ habitat that they represent at a particular location. Looking at them together will help us begin to understand the benefits of their relationship and the inter-dependence of their wildlife. This will highlight shared threats and help to develop a combined management approach that improves the condition and quality of each. 

Individually hedgerows and orchards are beautiful and valuable parts of our landscape, but together they create something truly special. 


Mazzard Cherry Orchard / Apple Orchard Blossom