Skip navigation

Neatly clipped yew, woven willow, scruffy privet, mixed hedges of several species including hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, field maple, spindle - and other combinations - hedges in town and country provide at least temporary lodging and corridors for small creatures, and at best, in a bushy mixed hedge, a varied structure for small mammals, birds and invertebrates to move through or shelter, nest and forage in.


By autumn the blossoms that adorned mixed native hedges in May and June - earlier in the case of blackthorn - have ripened into tempting purple, black and red berries, scarlet hips, burgundy-coloured haws, acorns and hazel nuts. Last month we celebrated these fruits and the biodiversity of mixed hedgerows.


1. Fungi wood and hedges 030 hawthorn (Custom) (2).JPG

Hawthorn – a common hedgerow plant


Our annual Hedgerow Harvest event took place in Wildlife Garden, with talks in the Attenborough Studio and additional activities in the Investigate Centre on 6 October. We also introduced a similar event away in Kent at the end of October - held jointly with the Friends group of Whitstable Museum and Gallery. Here’s how we celebrated:


As well as showing off our mixed native hedges in the Garden we held activities and displays about native hedges. In previous years woodland conservationist, Rob Graham, has demonstrated hedge-laying but now that all the hedges in the Garden have been laid, we invited visitors to help plant a new mixed hedge to replace a single species hedge - the yew hedge that Carrie and Ayana surveyed and wrote about in our September blog.


2. Hedgerow Harvest 071012-046 (Custom).JPG

Rob demonstrating hedgelaying in the Garden -  a method of creating a stock-proof barrier and a haven for wildlife
© Photoshot, Natural History Museum


We introduced our visitors to some for the animal species that benefit from hedgerows. Some were Museum specimens such as those in the OPAL bug hunt which was a popular and fun introduction to the different groups of invertebrates, including butterflies, beetles and bugs, and a helpful aid to identifying insects in hedges next spring and summer.


3.Hedgerow Harvest 071012-053 (Custom).JPG

Visitors studying for the OPAL bug hunt in the Wildlife Garden

© Photoshot, Natural History Museum


4. IMG_8109-1 bug id (Custom).JPG

OPAL Bug hunt at Whitstable Museum

© Lydia Heeley


Some were crafty paper-made peg animals.


PB176903 peg dormice (Custom).JPG


Around 80 peg dormice were made!

© Sean Hanna


Unfortunately, there was no chance of live dormice in the Garden but Sean, one of our volunteers, created a lively and informative display about this endangered species and their disappearing habitats, and had a captive audience making paper dormice to take away.

5. Hedgerow Harvest 071012-129 (Custom).JPG

   All about dormice - display in the Wildlife Garden

© Photoshot, Natural History Museum


At both events the celebrity guests were hedgehogs...

6 Hedgerow Harvest 071012-077 (Custom).JPG'Sue Kidger Hedgehog Rescue' visited the Wildlife Garden

© Photoshot, Natural History Museum



7 IMG_00001282 whitstable hedgehog (Custom).JPG

Loraine from Kent Wildlife Rescue introduced Whitstable visitors to rescued hedgehogs that are unable to fend for themselves

© Lydia Heeley


...and bats in Whitstable where Hazel from the Kent Bat Group introduced them to a keen audience.


8 IMG_8058-1 Ewan  Ella meeting a Pipistrelle bat (Custom).JPG

Eden and Ella meeting a pipistrelle bat

© Lydia Heeley



But food foraging is not just for the wildlife.


9.  Fungi wood and hedges 045 fruit (Custom).JPG

Rosehips, sloes and crab apples


During the Nature Live session in the Museum's Attenborough Studio we learnt about wild food from Marcus Harrison, which was  followed by a hedgerow plant tour of the garden with Roy Vickery. And, in Whitstable, Jo Barker led a walk in the community allotment to find some of the contents of these hedgerow living larders and medicine cabinets. A food table at both events displayed a wide range of food and drink from berries, nuts and nettles.


10 IMG_8043-1 whit food (Custom).JPG

Display of harvest from local hedges with tasty food and drink from Whitstable Farmers' Market and local shops

© Lydia Heeley


Additional activities using resources found in hedges and associated plants included :


11IMG_8098-1 Arthur identifying seeds under the microscope (Custom).JPG

Identifying seeds with the use of a microscope

© Lydia Heeley


Making fishing floats from the dried pith of elder trees.


IMG_00001293 fishing floats (Custom).JPG

A fishing float made from elder pith

© Lydia Heeley


Discovering the many colours using natural plants as dyes.


IMG_8048-1 Ruth demonstrating hedgerow-dyed wools (Custom).JPG

Ruth demonstrating colours from plant dyes in Whitstable Museum

© Lydia Heeley


And making seasonable bird feeders.

IMG_8097-1 rupert making a bird feeder (Custom).JPG

Rupert making an apple bird feeder in Whitstable Museum.

© Lydia Heeley



Hedges are still in celebratory mood with leaf colours slowly changing to yellow, browns, pink and russet while squirrels, birds and mice in our Garden are busy foraging berries and hips and haws and burying nuts in earthy larders.


15 berries_03102008_001 (Custom).JPG

Rosehips in the Wildlife Garden

© Derek Adams


You can find out more about this beautiful season with Fred Rumsey on his autumn wildlife walk on Hampstead Heath below - and then get outside and see for yourself!