Our Patchwork Landscape
The term ‘patchwork landscape’ may convey an idea of randomness, a mixed assemblage of woodland edge, scrub, hedgerow and open ground – but its character is quite distinct, its origins and development easily traceable. However diverse, it represents a broad habitat type endowed with a rich wildlife community.
There are two main elements in the creation of this mosaic which has come to dominate our countryside. First and foremost, man has played a key role in promoting the welfare of scrub by planting trees, hedgerows and copses as field boundaries to protect his livestock and crops from harsh weather. In so doing, he has also provided valuable ribbons of grassy banks, ditches and roadsides which are havens for plants that once enjoyed a wider distribution.
Apart from this regular network, man-made and continuously managed, another element in the patchwork fabric derives from those wilder unkempt places where open ground is in the process of natural transformation into mature woodland. Here there is rapid and dramatic vegetative change – scrub that is a brief but, for wildlife, highly attractive transition zone. the thickets in this patchwork are at once refuge, routeway and food supply. Foxes and rabbits often choose such cover for their dens and warrens and predatory weasells thread effortlessly through the labyrinth, drawn by the promise of vole, mouse and rabbit prey in the undergrowth. A great variety of bird species prize the structural support for nest-building and relish the autumn feast of berries and fruits which scrub plants produce expressly to be eaten, while lush foliage caters for insects.