1.7km of hedgerows to be created in Wensleydale to help dormice

Dormouse in state of torpor in Freeholders Wood, Aysgarth. Photo: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

More than 1,700 metres of hedgerows will be created in Wensleydale to help one of the UK’s most endangered mammals, the Hazel Dormouse.

Dormice had become extinct in the region, but after reintroductions in 2008 and 2016 have regained a foothold in a small area in the east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Grants of £75,000 from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and nearly £48,000 from Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) will enable the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) to carry out further conservation work during the next three years.

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There will be a chance for landowners and local residents to find out more at an evening talk at Carperby Village Institute at 7pm on Tuesday the 12th of September.

“The new funds are a huge boost for our efforts to join together the fragmented dormouse habitat in mid-Wensleydale,” said Phill Hibbs, seconded from the YDNPA’s Trees and Woodlands team to the new role of Wensleydale Dormouse Project Officer.

“The two hazel woodlands which have seen successful dormice reintroduction – Freeholders Wood near Aysgarth and a site nearby – will become linked with dormouse-friendly hedgerows, so that populations can spread out.”

“I’ll be contacting landowners in the coming weeks to see how we might work together to plant new woodland and hedgerows in the project area, which runs on the north side of the River Ure from the west of Carperby to Castle Bolton. Grants for landowners will be available.”

Ian White from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species said: “Records show that dormice were found in Wensleydale in 1885 but became locally extinct. Seeing them restored to their historic home in the past few years has been very exciting.  Phill Hibbs’ appointment, and the new project which he will lead, will take this vital conservation work to the next level.

“The importance of the Wensleydale Dormouse Project is underlined by the precarious state of Britain’s dormice population.  Many monitored sites across the country are seeing population declines as a result of climate change, the loss of hedgerows, and an end to woodland coppicing in many areas.”

Carol Douglas, YDMT’s Woodland Officer, said:  “The new trees and hedgerows will create habitat highways across mid Wensleydale to help facilitate the expansion of the dormouse population, as well as bringing benefits to a wide range of other animal and plant species.

“It’s a pleasure to be involved in this initiative and I’d like to thank our friends at The Fuelcard Company for their ongoing support which is helping us to invest in the Wensleydale Dormouse Project as well as creating many more new woodlands across the region.”

HAZEL DORMOUSE FACTFILE (courtesy of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species)

  • Habitat: deciduous woodland with plenty of scrub and undergrowth resulting from coppicing.
  • Description: chubby build; bright golden-brown colour with creamy-white underparts. Large, prominent, shiny, black eyes and small, rounded ears. Fluffy tail.
  • Size:  head and body about 70mm (2in); tail of similar length. Adult weighs about 17g (weight of two £1 coins) and up to 40g at the start of hibernation.
  • Life-span: up to 5 years in the wild; 6 years in captivity.
  • Food: flowers, pollen, fruit, nuts and insects. Hazel, honeysuckle, bramble and oak are particularly important as food sources.
  • The word dormouse comes from the French word ‘dormir’ – to sleep. The dormouse is a member of the rodent family which means it has prominent, strong and sharp front teeth (the incisors) for gnawing food.