Hedges For Habitat creates wildlife corridors in Tyrone school

Eco-Schools NI has teamed up with Moy Park to deliver an exciting ‘Hedges For Habitat’ pilot project at Integrated College in Dungannon.

Two horticulture classes, led by tutor Mrs Hazel Johnston, participated in environmental action that introduced native hedging plants to gaps in an existing perimeter hedge line and improved connectivity for wildlife. The project also saw schoolchildren plant four fruit trees that will be ripe for picking in time.

Native hedgerows are vitally important wildlife habitats, providing shelter and food for many species of mammals, birds and insects, including food-producing pollinating insects. Throughout the 20th century, approximately 118,000 miles of hedgerow in the UK were removed, particularly in rural areas. The planting of hedges presents an excellent way to combat habitat fragmentation, climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.

Jilly Dougan, Biodiversity Recovery Strategic Lead at Eco-Schools NI’s parent organisation Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said, “Most school grounds have some green space, and the majority are invariably surrounded by security fencing, which provide the perfect opportunity to plant a boundary native hedge for wildlife. As well as providing a new habitat as a legacy project, the hedges allow pupils to harvest fruits such as plums and apples, and forage for ‘wild’ food for years to come. In addition, the establishment of a monitoring scheme through time is a valuable asset to the school, the wider community and the various wildlife monitoring schemes that are currently so important in deciding future policy.”

During the course of the project, the students received a presentation and took part in discussions on why protecting and increasing biodiversity is so important, before helping to plant the hedging saplings, sweep netting and provide the id of common tree and insect species.

Mrs Johnston of the Integrated College, Dungannon said, “I feel it has been a very worthwhile project and I learnt so much myself! The students really enjoyed it and hopefully it will spark a genuine interest in the world around them and perhaps encourage greater care for plants, animals and insects, not only in the college grounds but in their home environment.”

Welcoming the Hedges For Habitat initiative, Johnny Topley, Regional Sustainability Manager from Moy Park said, “We are committed to boosting biodiversity in our local communities and enhancing the environment for local wildlife. Hedges for Habitat has the added benefit of helping young people to learn more about the positives of biodiversity and to see the impact of this firsthand at school. It’s been great to see the initiative in action at Integrated College, Dungannon, and we look forward to seeing how these new green spaces mature.”