3,000 hedgerow trees have been planted in the last month as Herefordshire Wildlife Trust prepares to open Oak Tree Farm Nature Reserve to the public later this year.

Oak Tree Farm is a 30-acre site comprised of pasture and meadow. It lies directly below Dinmore Hill and slopes down to the River Lugg which forms its southern border. Herefordshire Wildlife Trust purchased the site in September 2020 following a successful fundraising appeal. Over the last six months a network of pools and scrapes have been created beside the river to create an area of wetland habitat for wildlife. This has been funded by National Highways as part of their Network for Nature programme which aims to restore nature by joining up vital places for wildlife to help counter the damaging impacts of previous road building.   

Over the last few months, volunteers of all ages have helped to plant around 3,000 hedgerow plants which will create 350 metres of hedgerow around the site, providing extra wildlife habitat and screening the car park and paths to ensure visitors do not disturb the wildlife. While finishing the planting, the team were joined by Anita Rani and the BBC Countryfile film crew who helped to finish the planting and found out more about the site.

The newly planted hedges include a variety of species such ashawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, elder, wayfaring tree, guelder rose and hazel which have been chosen to provide thebest habitat for wildlife to shelter and nest and to bear fruits and berries in winter. There are already thick hedges around and through the site which will join up with the new hedges providing â€˜wildlife corridors’.  This will particularly benefitmammals such as mice, including dormice, and hedgehogs. The hedgerows will also provide habitat in which small birds can nest and forage such as chaffinch, robin and blue tit.

The Trust plan to open Oak Tree Farm to the public at the end of the summer and hope that over the autumn and winter lots of wetland wildlife will find their way to the site as it forms a stepping stone between Bodenham lake nature reserve and Wellington Gravel Pits, both known as brilliant bird watching sites.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s Senior Conservation Projects Officer Sarah King says:

We’ve already recorded snipe, polecat and lots of small birdson our wildlife cameras but hope to see other wetland species such as lapwing, curlew and oystercatcher discover the site over the next year. This should be an excellent bird watching site as part of the suite of sites making up the Lugg valley Wetlands. We already have one well-place bird hide on site and are fundraising for a second one. These will give visitors fantastic views over the wetland areas – the rest of the site will remain as a wildlife refuge with no public access – and dogs will not be allowed on site. This will make for the best wildlife-watching experience.”

Oak Tree Farm is due to be featured on BBC Countryfile on 19th March.

To contribute to the purchase of a second bird hide for the site, go to: https://www.herefordshirewt.org/nature-reserves/oak-tree-farm