UPM Tilhill creates new habitat to help boost Dormouse numbers in Kent

(UPM, 18 November, 2008) - UPM Tilhill has created a new ‘des res’ for dormice alongside a 400 metre stretch of Kent’s rail network near Wadhurst, East Sussex. The Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is a European Protected Species and is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Across the UK population levels are declining in number and it is hoped projects such as this will help buck that trend.

The project is part of UPM Tilhill’s commitment to Network Rail to ensure sound railside vegetation management across Kent, Sussex and parts of south-east London. Over the last eighteen months UPM Tilhill have created numerous additional habitats for species such as bats, badgers and variety of reptiles in areas where, for safety reasons, clearance of the lineside environment has been designated by Network Rail.

Andrea Gannon, Rail Ecologist with UPM Tilhill's South East England District Office, routinely carries out environmental surveys of areas ear marked for clearance. Along the TTH (Tonbridge to Hastings) Line at Scrag's Oak, near Wadhurst, a hazel-rich environment was noted for its potential as a desirable dormouse habitat.

“Safety is the priority when maintaining the lineside environment and at Scrag’s Oak it was clear that much of the vegetation along the area’s steep banks would need to be removed to ensure clear sight lines for train operatives. However, Network Rail fully supported our recommendations to maintain the hazel-rich environment higher up the banks which we felt would be attractive to dormice – a much-loved but sadly endangered species in the UK.”

Under the guidance of Ken West, President of the Kent Mammal Group, Andrea and colleagues have installed 50 presence and absence tubes and 20 breeding boxes across the site, which in areas has also been cut down to ground level, for safety reasons. Over the coming months the team will closely monitor the site to assess the success of the venture.
“The reason dormice numbers are declining sharply in the UK is predominantly down to loss of habitat,” said Ken West. “So it is wonderful to see companies working together and taking action to preserve and enhance these precious habitats.”

This is just one of the many sites were UPM Tilhill have been fulfilling their environmental brief under ISO14001. Other works include Reptile Fence installation, Reptile Translocation and Badger Gating works at Tunbridge Wells Turnback Sidings, a multi-million pound Network Rail development. Hundreds of Bat and Dormouse boxes have been installed along Kent's railway network.

UPM has developed a global biodiversity programme for its own company forests where the aim is to maintain and increase biodiversity in forests as well as promote the best practices in sustainable forestry. This type of cooperation with Network Rail on private land compliments those efforts.

Wherever possible Network Rail encourages native species of trees and shrubs as they provide the best habitat for native animals and protected species.

For further information, please contact:
Jackie Brown, UPM Tilhill PR Co-ordinator, Tel: 01787 221830 / mob: 0779 297 0919.

Notes to editors:
The tiny hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), weighing about 20 grams and measuring less than three inches, has all but vanished from its former range. Over the last century, the dormouse has disappeared from seven countries and remains in sparse populations throughout southern England and Wales.

It is a strictly nocturnal species, found in deciduous woodland and overgrown hedgerows. It spends most of its time climbing among tree branches in search of food, and rarely comes to the ground. It feeds on flowers, pollen, fruits, insects and nuts. During the day it sleeps in a nest, often in a hollow tree branch or a deserted bird nest or nestbox.

UPM Tilhill is the UK's leading landscaping, arboriculture and environmental works company. The company provides a full range of consultancy and contracting services to civil engineers, developers, landscape architects and local authorities as well as landowners. The company is a member of BALI and is registered with Construction Line, Achilles and Link-up, and has a CSCS Gold Standard Certificate.