Belhaven Hill School recently took a group of 23 volunteer boys and girls aged 7 to 13 to The Hopes Estate in the Lammermuir Hills in East Lothian to plant a wild hedgerow to provide an important nesting and feeding area for native songbirds.
Blackthorn, hawthorn, crab apple, dogrose and hazel were planted as a wide and wild strip-hedge to provide shelter for indigenous species such as grey partridges and native songbirds. These birds thrive in the harsh climate of East Lothian’s Lammermuir Hills but suffer from increased pressure from avian predators. The hedge will also provide a valuable breeding and feeding area for a number of other bird and animal species.
“At Belhaven we believe that wildlife conservation and caring for the natural environment are an integral part of Outdoor Learning,” said Mr Rawson, Head of Maths at Belhaven Hill who runs the school’s Conservation Club and managed the tree planting project.
“Planting a hedge makes a lasting positive impact on the beautiful countryside around us. We hope that creating something that will last for hundreds of years will also have a positive impact on the children that worked so hard to make it happen.”
The project was facilitated by Mr Hugo Straker of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The GWCT has campaigned in recent years to halt the decline of indigenous species through their Scottish Grey Partridge Project. Last year Belhaven Hill School pupils planted 500 trees in a 150m long wildlife hedge near Garvald in East Lothian.
Mr Straker commented: “GWCT is again delighted to have facilitated another practical, outdoor, classroom venture with Belhaven Hill School. I’m firmly convinced that there is no substitute to seeing, feeling, smelling and listening to the countryside outside in the flesh. These hands-on projects give the kids a unique and early understanding of what makes it all tick.”
The Hopes Estate was one of only five estates to win Wildlife Estates Scotland accreditation for conservation work. The Hopes Estate’s owner, Mr Robbie Douglas Miller, is a former Belhaven Hill parent and said:
“It was wonderful to see so many enthusiastic Belhaven children out at The Hopes helping to create a new wildlife sanctuary. In three hours the team planted nearly 500 new shrubs creating a 175m long, 5m wide ‘wild’ hedge. In a few years’ time it will provide cover, food and nesting space for a variety of songbirds and look fabulous. The children who took part should be proud of their achievement.”
Alba Trees Managing Director Rodney Shearer who supplied over 500 young trees, protective guards and supporting canes for the project, said:
“It is wonderful to see our trees being used to provide such a fantastic outdoor educational opportunity for children. We believe passionately in the value of connecting young people with the natural world around them and learning about the true value of our land.
“Hopefully this has sparked a life-long interest in our environment and will develop into a deeper interest in trees, plants and wildlife. We are very proud to have been involved in this type of holistic education and well done to all involved.”
In the last two years Belhaven Hill has planted over 2,000 trees, cleared four local beaches of marine litter and erected 85 bird boxes in our local community. The school has been awarded a Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Gold Award and been selected by marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage as a Regional Environmental Champion.