Factors Affecting Hedgerows

There has been a significant loss of hedgerows and decline in the length of hedgerows within the UK in the last 100 years. Factors which have contributed to this loss of hedgerows include;

  • A reduction in traditional hedgerow management practices.
  • Inappropriate management practices such as cutting hedgerows too frequently, or at the wrong time of year.
  • Unsuitable mechanised management of hedgerows which has led to over-trimming.
  • A lack of general management so that hedgerows and trees have not been restocked or replaced. 
  • Neglect of hedgerows so that they are left for many years without maintenance and therefore become too tall and gappy resulting in removal.
  • Felling of hedgerow trees without replacing them.
  • Poor maintenance of hedgerows, field margins, banks and ditches.
  • Replacement of hedgerows with other forms of fencing.
  • The use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers up to the base of the hedgerow which can result in damage to the structure of the hedgerow.
  • Spray drift from spraying crops with pesticides and fertilisers can damage the hedgerow.
  • Not fencing livestock away from the hedgerows results in livestock feeding on the hedges and animals damaging parts of the hedgerow.
  • Overstocking with livestock which again results in livestock damaging the hedges.
  • Arable specialisation removes the need for hedgerows.
  • The removal of hedgerows to enlarge field size and ease the use of enlarged farm machinery.
  • Ploughing up to the base of the hedgerow can result in the loss of marginal habitats and damage to the hedgerow.
  • Erosion or removal of hedgebanks due to agricultural practices or road widening can damage the hedgerows.
  • Perceptions of ‘tidy’ hedgerows and the need for a tidy countryside. Some view hedgerows left uncut for a year or two as poor land management.

Did you Know?

  • Hedgerows are protected by the Hedgerows Regulations 1997.
  • Permission is required before removing hedges that are at least 20m in length, over 30 years old and contain certain species of plant.
  • Some hedgerows are protected on the basis of their historic importance or wildlife value.

Farmers are working hard to manage and maintain their hedgerows so that the loss and decline of hedgerows and their associated wildlife does not continue. Click on the link to read about Managing Hedgerows.

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