On a recent freezing morning I visited two separate hedgerows areas. One, near Kinsealy, Co Dublin, has survived intact. It is an old-type hedge which has not been cut and on the side of a weak winter sun it was alive with birds chirping and warming up. It still had evidence of some food supply, old berries, crab apples maybe, remains of leaves and seed. The bottom bushy part of the hedge was also intact and would, I supposed, have been used for shelter and protection from the frost and hungry predators in the nights before. Here birds and other small wildlife had some chance.
Later, I visited a REPS-controlled hedge (Rural Environment Protection Scheme) in Meath. It had been reduced to a long line of stumps, it was as barren and devoid of food, shelter or life as one could imagine and even the bottom hedge margins, which are supposed to be left in place, were missing. Birds too.
I have always believed that the REPS scheme is simply a method to funnel money to farmers, badly needed I know, but if it is to be made fit for purpose then would it not be better that the money should go only to farmers who leave their hedgerows alone. Let them grow as nature intended?
This might go some way to backing up the other government waffle about biodiversity, habitat protection etc.
I fear that the cold spell was a holocaust for birdlife and calling REPS rural environment protection does something similar to the truth.