Belhaven Hill pupils relaxing after hedge planting for grey partridge conservation
Belhaven Hill School’s Maths teacher, Mr Tom Rawson, recently took a group of 23 volunteer pupils aged 9 to 13 to Tanderlane Farm near Garvald in East Lothian to restore over 150 metres of hedgerow to improve an important nesting area for native grey partridge. The project was supported by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Woodland Trust Scotland and Alba Trees.
Mr Rawson from Belhaven in Dunbar explained the project’s objectives:
“Belhaven Hill School is an independent prep school with its roots firmly in the countryside. We have recently introduced a programme of Outdoor Education and planting a hedge is a great way to make a lasting positive impact on the beautiful countryside around us. By creating something that will last for generations, the children will gain a better understanding of the countryside and appreciate and enjoy their surroundings just a little bit more.”
The bushy branches and juicy berries in the traditional Scottish hedge of hawthorn, rowan and blackthorn provide shelter for indigenous, breeding grey partridges; they thrive in Scotland’s harsh climate but are suffering from increased competition from predators. The hedge will also provide a valuable breeding and feeding area for a number of other bird and animal species.
The project was assisted by Mr Hugo Straker of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The Trust has worked for many years to halt the decline of the grey partridge and recently established a Scottish Grey Partridge Project in Midlothian.
Mr Straker of GWCTsaid:
“I take my hat off to Belhaven Hill School for taking the classroom out to the countryside. The smiles on the youngsters’ faces spoke volumes! This was a wonderfully practical opportunity to help tomorrow’s stewards of the countryside understand the importance of habitat management for wild grey partridges and farmland songbirds. Nothing can beat the hands-on experience of planting a new hedge and the GWCT is delighted to have facilitated this cheerful and thoroughly positive initiative.”
The GWCT awards The Dodseed East Lothian Grey Partridge Trophy annually to East Lothian farmers who can demonstrate, through annual partridge counts, that their conservation work has a positive impact on populations of grey partridges by providing specialist breeding and feeding areas as well as winter cover.
Mr Niall Donaldson, a former Belhaven Hill School parent and owner of Tanderlane Farm, won the award in 2013 for his work to conserve this important native species.
The Woodland Trust Scotland recognised the project could have both a big impact on a particular area of East Lothian and help to educate a new generation of young environmentalists.
Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland said:
“It’s fantastic that groups such as Belhaven Hill School are working so hard to improve their local environment. Planting trees is a great way to demonstrate the importance of conservation.
“We’re also grateful to supporters including players of People’s Postcode Lottery who help us provide hundreds of groups with the chance to create new woods and hedges.”
The project was also supported by Alba Trees Forest Nursery. Alba Trees supplied over 500 young trees, protective guards and supporting canes.
“We at Alba Trees are delighted to be supporting Belhaven Hill School in providing fantastic education beyond the classroom. It’s so important that children grow up with a fascination for nature and love for our environment, so I’m glad we could do our bit to help,” said Rodney Shearer, Managing Director of Alba Trees Forest Nursery.
“Belhaven’s vision of Outdoor Education is about promoting a rounded approach to teaching with learning outside the classroom playing a key role,” added Innes MacAskill, Belhaven’s headmaster.
“Last September we started taking younger day pupils from age seven and, as studies have shown that learning levels improve through hands-on experience, we decided to introduce more Outdoor Education into the curriculum.”
Working together, the group planted 500 trees within 3 hours. It is hoped that the new hedge will make a lasting impact on the grey partridge population at Tanderlane Farm. The venture will certainly have a lasting positive effect on those children involved.