Children and their parents took a walk on the wildside last Friday when they headed out on a unique ‘Hedgerow Safari’.
Hosted by farmer David Finlay on Rainton Farm – home of Cream o’ Galloway organic ice cream, the event allowed the young aspiring safari rangers to stalk voles, identify insects and brush up on birdlife with a journey of exploration along organic hedgerows.
The event, organised by the Organic Milk Cooperative (OMSCo), elevated the humble hedgerow to a thrilling safari route for the children. Experienced ‘Safari Leader’, Finlay McLaren, took them on an exciting journey of discovery,identifying plants, looking for insects and hunting for signs of the many animals and birds that live in the hedgerows. There was even the chance to look at live small mammals including woodmice, common shrews and bank voles.
Finlay, comments: “Organic hedgerows are really important habitats and it’s great to get kids out on farm learning all about them. Hedgerows provide shelter and food for all sorts of insects, birds and mammals, from squirrels to stoats, butterflies to beetles, robins to wrens and a whole variety of native British plant life.”
Farmer David adds: “The children loved the Hedgerow Safari – especially the excitement of coming face to face with live hedgerow inhabitants like woodmice. They learnt loads about why hedgerows are important and what makes hedges on organic dairy farms so special – and they even got to top the day off with a glass of fresh organic milk!”
Research shows over 1,500 insects, 600 plant species, 65 birds and 20 mammals have been recorded as living or feeding in hedgerows and they are the main habitat for at least 47 species of conservation concern in the UK – including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining species.
The last fifty years have seen a dramatic decline in farmland wildlife due to intensive farming practices and the use of pesticides. However, a report by English Nature in 2004 reported that there are more birds, butterflies, beetles and bats on organic farms where the use of artificial chemical pesticides is banned.
David said: “We only cut our hedges once every two years, which allows them to flower and fruit, providing food and cover for insects, birds and small mammals. Also, we don’t cut them in the summer months when mammals, birds and beneficial insects such as ladybirds are breeding.”
Rainton Farm and Cream o’ Galloway are a wonderful haven for wildlife. The 830 acres of farmland has been managed organically since 2001 meaning no artificial pesticides have been applied to the land, which is hugely beneficial to the local wildlife. Tens of thousands of native trees have also been planted in recent years and three new ponds created.
For more information or to book your school or children’s group on their very own Hedgerow Safari, visitwww.teach-organic.org.uk