Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

3.3 Detailed management prescriptions

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 (a woody plant where the distance between the ground and the base of the leafy layer is less than 2 m) which is over 20 m long and less than 5 m wide between major woody stems at the base. Features which are tall trees over most of their length with no shrub layer are not eligible for these options.

In addition, eligible hedgerows must:

  • be under your management control. For management options that apply to both sides of the hedge, you must have management control of both sides of the hedge and of the land adjacent to the hedge. If you do not have management control of both sides of the hedge and the land adjacent, you must use the one-sided management options;
  • be in management by regular trimming or on a traditional hedge-laying or coppicing cycle; and
  • be predominantly composed of native shrubs (at least 80 per cent).

Where the hedgerow includes gaps or gates, these may be included in the length entered into an option, providing they comprise less than 10 per cent of the total length of the particular hedge. Gaps above this 10 per cent threshold should be deducted from the length included unless you intend to plant up the gaps in the first two years of your agreement to achieve a hedge with no more than 10 per cent gaps. 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 1 below).


Figure 1 – Defining gaps in a hedgerow


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. The minimum height requirement does not apply to sections of hedge which are laid, coppiced or gapped up during the term of the agreement; however, all other prescriptions should be followed.

Although maximum trimming frequencies are stated (once every two years, or once in every three 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. 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.

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 (hedgerow management for landscape and wildlife). 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 manage both features, use options EB8, EB9 and EB10, rather than the separate hedge and ditch options EB1, EB2, EB3 and EB6.

Hedges, or lengths of hedges managed under options EB1, EB2, EB3, EB8, EB9 and EB10 can also be entered into EB14 or be eligible for Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) capital item payments if you make an HLS application. With the exception of EB14, you cannot use more than one hedgerow management option on the same length of hedgerow.

Where there is woody growth on top of an earth bank or stone-faced bank which meets the necessary criteria for options EB4, EB5, EB12 or EB13, you may also apply for one of the hedgerow options EB1, EB2, EB3 or EB14. The specified 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 downloaded from the Natural England website, details in Appendix 2.

Further information about hedge laying and coppicing can be found in the Hedgelink pamphlet The Hedgerow Management Cycle and Scale, details in Appendix 2.

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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