Hedging

At Kingsdown Nurseries we supply wholesale hedging plants in all their forms and variations from huge rootballed hedging for a £40m property to tiny barerooted hedging plants 30cm tall for a farmland boundary.   Instant hedging units are also becoming very popular which is partly because they can be planted nearly all year round whereas traditional rootballed and bareroot hedging are only available from November to early/mid April.

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Hedges are not a natural feature of our landscape. They are the visible sign of man’s efforts, over many centuries, to bring order to the land. A farmer’s need to contain his own stock and protect his crops has resulted in a complex pattern of enclosed fields.

The shape and size of a field may be dictated by an external boundary, a stream or river, a block of woodland, roads or drovers’ tracks. All are physical constraints which influence boundary positions. Parish boundaries, changes in soil type and old plough furlongs are further contributions which have combined over the centuries to produce a pattern unique to our landscape. The changing pattern of farming since the Second World War has broken down the hedgerow system in those parts of the country where arable cropping has become the dominant use of land.   In fact we have lost 75,000 miles of hedgerows since the Second World War.  However, there is still an estimated 280,000 miles left in the UK and (with the help of Kingsdown Nurseries) every year hundreds of miles are being planted again.

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The full value of a hedge is still appreciated in the dairy and stock areas of the West Country, Devon and Cornwall and throughout most of Wales. The stock farmer knows that the physical barrier of a good hedge prevents cattle from both seeing and getting at fresh grass in the next field; and how much shelter does a barbed wire fence give from the cutting edge of a cold north-east wind? One only has to see cattle and sheep standing with their backs to the wind in an open field to know that they do not like the penetrating blast of a cold winter’s wind.

Higher value crops of fruit and vegetables also benefit from the protection of a good hedge or windbreak. Wind increases the rate of transpiration across the surface of the leaf, which responds by respiring at a higher rate to both cool and retain the turgidity of its cells. This draws more water up the plant from its roots, so reducing the available soil moisture.

Beyond the physical benefits of a hedge to the farmer or grower, there is the much wider aesthetic value to the nation as a whole. Only a small percentage of the population continue to live and work on the land, whilst the majority work within the confines of a factory, shop or office, denied the beauty of our landscape.

The patchwork of our fields, surrounded by hedges or walls, is a feature of the English landscape which is cherished beyond our shores and, like other elements of our heritage, it needs to be appreciated by us rather than taken for granted.

In the same way that architectural styles of the past are incorporated into new buildings because of their enduring qualities, so we now need to take stock of those qualities which will enable the English hedgerow to survive and thrive for generations to come.

Preservation orders have been placed on many trees and the removal of hedgerow is now forbidden. Thankfully an increasing number of landowners are taking a great interest in restoring some of the lost variety of our countryside. In so doing, Conservation and landscape advisers have taken a fresh look at the fabric of the farming landscape to reassess both aesthetic and wildlife requirements for the future. Downland, woods and ponds are now under intense scrutiny. This scrutiny has spread to assess the value of field margins, of which the humble hedge is an integral part.

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