A NATURAL highway for highly endangered mammals to thrive in has been planted.

Around half a mile of hedgerows have been planted in Wensleydale, which is hoped will help expand an existing hazel dormouse territory.

The mammals, which had become extinct across Yorkshire and across many parts of the country, recently made a comeback following two reintroductions in Wensleydale in 2008 and 2016.

Part of a three-year project to connect two woodlands with half a mile of hedgerow, around £75,000 from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species had been invested.

A further £48,000 was also donated by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.

Rows of three trees, spaced a metre apart, will hopefully grow to create a wide and bushy hedgerow that will consist of fruit and nuts.

Ian White of People’s Trust for Endangered Species said: “Dormice have declined in the UK by 38 percent since the year 2000 due mainly to a lack of woodland management and a loss of hedgerows. T

“he project to restore hazel dormice to Wensleydale, where we know they were a hundred years ago, has been a great success.

“Hedge planting and better woodland management should help to ensure they can remain in this area of Yorkshire for at least the next hundred years.”

Once the trees grow large enough, the dormice are expected to make the highway their home.

Ian McPherson of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority added: “Dormice are adorable, as well as highly endangered, and their reintroduction in Wensleydale has been one of the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s biggest conservation success stories. It would be impossible to create these dormice ‘highways’ between areas of woodland without the full support of several landowners in mid-Wensleydale – I would like to thank them for supporting and enhancing wildlife in the National Park.”