A Welsh landowner who connected up the longest stretch of dormouse friendly habitat (495 acres in total) has won the Reconnecting the Countryside award, organised by the conservation charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES). Keith Allen from Trellech, Monmouthshire, triumphed because, say the judges, he ‘demonstrated a clear vision for the wider landscape’, including planting 138 hazel trees on neighbouring land and 45 on his own to form dormouse-friendly hedgerows.
He created hazel staging posts along them, plus an aerial bridge over a road, acted as a local dormouse monitor and trained volunteers. He even plans to spend the £1,000 prize money on dormouse monitoring equipment and a special camera system to film them. Nida Al-Fulaij of the PTES says: ‘The standard of entries was extremely high, and it was a tough call to decide, but Mr Allen truly stood out. He is an inspiration to farmers and landowners in how it’s possible to make a huge impact through a relatively modest investment of time and effort.’
After the Second World War, Britain’s hedgerows were all but halved due to increases in field sizes, mechanised farming and neglect, all of which had a serious knock-on effect on hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) populations, as well as biodiversity generally. Mr Allen’s neighbour, Alan Morgan, a sheep farmer, was one of three runners-up, for ensuring a continuous woody habitat of 50 acres, plus restoring hay meadows and 15 ponds that support frogs, toads and all three species of newt, including the rare great crested.
Bob and Anne Cowlin, who farm predominantly organic arable land at Assington, Suffolk, created, with the aid of a Jigsaw grant from the Forestry Commission, 168 connected acres of woodland habitat, plus an owl tower and a sustainably built tractor shed to be used as a venue for arts-and crafts courses.
Farmer Anthony Martin from Lydden, Kent, plants half a mile of species-rich hedgerow each year; he has coppiced 71/2 acres and connected up 143 acres of woodland habitat. The Wildlife Trusts and RHS have jointly launched a website (www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk) to help gardeners create wildlife friendly habitats for insects, mammals and birds. Twenty copies of the RHS Wildlife Garden book will be offered in a prize draw to people signing up to the website’s monthly newsletter