Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2010 (NE226)

3.2    Detailed management prescriptions for ELS compulsory requirements and options

Compulsory requirements
EA1 Farm Environment Record

3 points per ha

As part of your application, you must identify and map the features listed and described on the FER Map key that are present on your land. Follow the instructions in Section 2.3.2 Step 2, to do so. The completed map(s) must be submitted with your application form. As long as the markings you make are clear and understandable, we will be able to accept your map(s).

You must retain all features marked on your FER map for the duration of your agreement.

B    Options for boundary features

Boundary management options
Field boundaries are important elements of the countryside as landscape and historic features; for wildlife habitat; and for stock management and shelter. Hedges across long, steep slopes may reduce soil erosion as they intercept and slow surface run-off water before it builds into damaging flow, particularly where there is a margin or buffer strip alongside.

Which hedges are eligible for these options?
Hedgerow management options may be applied to any boundary line of shrubs (with or without trees), provided that at one time the trees and shrubs were more or less continuous. In addition, eligible hedgerows must be:

  • under your management control;
  • in management by regular trimming or on a traditional hedge-laying or coppicing cycle; and
  • predominantly composed of native shrubs (at least 80 per cent).

Where the hedgerow includes gaps or gates, these may be included in the length measurement, providing they comprise less than 20 per cent of the total length of the particular hedge. Gaps above this 20 per cent threshold should be deducted from the length included. A gap is a complete break in the canopy. Where a tree canopy overlaps the hedgerow canopy, this is not counted as a gap (see Figure 3 below).

Figure 3 - Eligible hedgerows

You may use these options on newly planted, laid or coppiced hedgerows or hedgerows that are below the minimum heights required at the start of the agreement. However, the hedges must meet the required height by the end of the agreement. To achieve the best range of hedgerow habitats on your farm, you should aim to have a mixture of hedges of different heights and widths, all with thick bushy bases. Although maximum trimming frequencies are stated (once every 2 years, or once in every 3 years), there is no requirement to trim at all during the agreement term. Instead, hedgerows can be left to grow unchecked then managed in a long-term coppicing or laying rotation.

Road and trackside hedgerows that require annual or more frequent trimming for public safety are not eligible for options EB1 (two-sided management) or EB3 (enhanced hedgerow management). However, the non-road side of the hedge may be entered into option EB2 (one-sided management).

Where a hedge is directly adjacent to a woodland edge, only EB2 (one-sided management) can be included.

Where a ditch runs alongside the hedge and you wish to include both, use options EB8, EB9 and EB10, rather than the separate hedge and ditch options EB1, EB2, EB3 and EB6.

Hedges managed under an ELS option are eligible for Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) capital item payments, when you are making an HLS application.

You cannot use more than one hedgerow management option on the same length of hedgerow. However, where there is woody growth on top of an earth bank or stone-faced bank which meets the necessary criteria, you may also apply for one of the hedgerow options EB1, EB2 or EB3. The specifi ed height of the hedgerow is measured from the top of the bank.

For more information on hedgerow cutting, refer to the Natural England pamphlet NE36, entitled Hedge Cutting: answers to 18 common questions. A copy of this can be obtained from the National England website at www.naturalengland.org.uk

Combining ELS hedgerow management with cross compliance requirements
Cross compliance conditions include a requirement to maintain 'protection zones' by not cultivating or applying fertilisers, manures or pesticides to land within 2 m of the centre of a hedgerow or watercourse. This requirement also applies to all land within 1 m of the top of the bank of a watercourse.

Hedge and ditch options have been designed to be compatible with this cross compliance requirement. The 'protection zone' requirement for cross compliance is incorporated within the option rules.

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