In Jersey we have to keep our roadside trees, hedges, banks and verges clear from obstructing the roads by 12 foot and footpaths by 8 foot. This is inspected by Law twice a year during the 3 weeks following 24th June and 1st September on different dates in the various Parishes. An administrative penalty of £200 can be imposed by the Parishes' Roads Committees for any infringement. Safety on the roads and footpaths is of paramount importance, some of our lanes are very narrow, and in a wet Spring the vegetation can grow very fast, making walking, riding or even driving dangerous. We have lots of lanes where only one car can pass, even when the sides have been trimmed back.
In recent years, with increasing mechanisation (tractor and flail) of the cutting process, verges, hedges and banks have been damaged, bark taken off trees, roadside walls beneath the banks collapsing into the road with rainfall in the winter and most importantly the diversity of roadside plants has decreased, so that our lanes are no longer edged with beautiful wild flowers but are shaved to the bare earth so that only fast growing plants like brambles flourish.
We are working with other environmental organisations in the Island to try to change attitudes, to get everyone to relax a bit about how neat the verges have to be - as with your garden, a bit of wildness benefits everything, plants, birds, insects, animals and us!
If the height of the cut were raised to at least 6 inches (15cm) - (preferably to 1 foot/30cm for hedgehogs), then the diversity of low growing plants which are beneficial to insects and other wildlife could re-establish themselves and we would get back the beautiful lanes we remember from the past.
Linked to this is the problem for hedgehogs and presumably other wildlife (which does not get reported - apparently) when the outside of the hedges are cut at Branchage time, the insides of the hedges and field margins are also cut, even though this is not required under the Branchage Law and could be done during the winter. This must be why we had so many injured hedgehogs in 2018, over 30 were put to sleep in July because of strimmer injuries, mainly to their noses, which do not heal if the bones are damaged. We think it was due to the very hot weather when hedgehogs would have been just lying out in long grass at the edges of the fields, not curled up in a nest, as they would do in cooler temperatures.
There are Government schemes in the UK to encourage farmers to leave their field margins for wildlife and not to cut their hedges until later in the year when birds have stopped nesting. Here is the link to the Brirtish Hedgehog Society and Peoples' Trust for Endangered Species guidance leaflet for farmers and landowners on how to manage their land for hedgehogs, which will of course benefit other creatures and the environment itself:
back to strimmer awareness
In 2015 Our Environment Department and the Societe Jersiaise produced a report on the State of Butterflies in Jersey which contains guidelines for Branchage which can be summarised as follows:
Carry out major pruning and hedge or branch cutting on the inner margins of hedges only between October and February to allow birds and animals to nest, keep nuts and berries in place and let plants set seed.
Cut vegetation to a minimum of 10cm (4") (which is of no benefit to hedgehogs they would still get slashed - which is why we are asking for a height of 30cm) to leave roots in tact and allow vegetation to recover thus preventing soil erosion.
They recommend the use of hand tools or a strimmer rather than a tractor and flail. (However, we have seen that strimmers used without the area being checked beforehand, still causes injurires to hedgehogs). Which is why we ask everyone to check with a gloved hand, a boot, a stick or a rake before they start work.
They advise against the use of any herbicides which quite apart from harming wildlife can produce bare patches of soil which then erode away.
Hedgerows should be checked for nesting animals, rare plants and invasive species, which should be notified to the Department of the Environment.
All cuttings should be removed and not allowed to build up on the bank or verge blocking the growth of new low growing (beneficial) plants.
If you are a farmer, landowner or have a garden with a bank, verge or hedge on the roadside, please do everything you can to make our Island beautiful, abundant in wildlife and safe for hedgehogs.