NEARLY half a mile of new hedgerow has been planted in Wensleydale to help expand the territory of the hazel dormouse.

One of the UK's most endangered mammals, dormice had become extinct in Yorkshire but after re-introduction in 2008 and 2016 they have gained a foothold in mid-Wensleydale.

The 750 metres of new hedgerow contains 4,600 trees on Stuart Raw's Hollins Farm to create a ' highway' for the dormice to travel between their two existing areas of woodland. The trees were planted by Dave Allen, a Hawes-based arboricultural contractor.

Ian White, dormouse and training officer at the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), said: “Dormice have declined in the UK by 38 per cent since the year 2000 due mainly to a lack of woodland management and a loss of hedgerows. The project to restore hazel dormice to Wensleydale, where we know they were 100 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 100 years."

The new planting was part of a three year project - now entering its last year - supported by grants of £75,000 from PTES and almost £48,000 from the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust. Meetings were held to attract farmers and landowners to be involved.

Following the second reintroduction of dormice, the project began to connect the two woodlands - and further connect to a third new woodland on the Bolton Castle estate. If successful this will create a three mile wide habitat for them.

Phil Hibbs, trees and woodlands officer for the park authority, spent the first year of the project surveying existing hedgerows to work out where new ones were needed. Two main ways to get connectivity were established, along the River Ure and along the route of the former Wensleydale Railway.

He said they now need the dormice to find the connections. "Dormice are arboreal creatures going from branch to branch and they do best in a shrub environment. They need hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, hazel – especially hazel – bird cherry and dog rose."