Well managed hedgerows are an important part of our landscape. Hedges provide food and shelter for wildlife, offer a barrier to livestock and help stop the spread of disease. Many agri-environment scheme participants must carry out Field Boundary Restoration as part of their agreement. These schemes include the Countryside Management Scheme (CMS), the NICMS and the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Scheme. If you are in a scheme, it is important that you have completed all your Field Boundary Restoration work that you have claimed for and that your new hedgerow is up to the required standard, says Stephen Trew, Countryside Management Delivery Branch, DARD.

If you are in the NICMS check your Single Application Form for details of the fields and lengths you claimed for. CMS and ESA Scheme participants should check their annual claim form for details of the length of FBR work required. When you have completed your field boundary restoration work, it is important that you accurately measure the length that you have restored and only claim for that amount.

When planting a new hedge or gaps in an existing hedge, you should check your scheme information booklet. This provides details of the standards required for Field Boundary Restoration. A mixture of species must be planted. You should plant at least five woody species throughout every 30m length of hedge using a mixture of 75% hawthorn and 25% other species. Species such as blackthorn, hazel, holly, dog rose, whin, beech, guelder rose and willow. No single species hedges are allowed.

When planting a new hedge, a double, staggered row must be planted with 250-300mm (10-12 inches) between rows. Native tree whips must be planted in the hedge every 10-15m, for example oak, rowan, birch, alder, willow, crab apple and wild cherry. It is important to control grass and weeds in a newly planted hedge which should also be protected from grazing livestock, rabbits and hares. Where restoration work required coppicing, the stems of hedges suitable for coppicing must be cut to about 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) along the full length of the hedge except where hedgerow trees are left.

If your Field Boundary work included stonewall restoration, these must be restored to traditional design, using stones sourced from within the farm. Land reclamation to obtain stone is not permitted. Dry stone walls must be rebuilt from ground level to be eligible for agri-environment field boundary restoration.

For full details of the specifications for field boundary restoration see your agri-environment scheme booklet. If you have any questions on hedge management, or making sure your field boundary restoration is up to standard, contact your local Countryside Management Delivery Adviser or visit http://www.dardni.gov.uk/ruralni/CountrysideManagement.