are generally managed according to their location (altitude, accessibility),
species composition and purpose (i.e. stock-proof barrier, shelter-belt,
wildlife haven). Or it might be that the practice is traditional
to the landowner or farmer, handed down over the generations without change.
It is widely acknowledged now that good hedge management involves looking
at the whole farm or holding, and also that "neat and tidy"
hedges are often not the best hedges.
There are many publications detailing how to hedge lay, coppice and trim.
This page is designed to provide at a glance guidance and advice on various
laying and coppicing
is a traditional technique for managing hedgerows whereby each stem
of a hedge plant is partially cut and laid flat. Re-growth
sprouts from the cut stem giving a bushy base to the hedgerow.
Today laying is often undertaken to rejuvenate a weak or gappy hedge.
Coppicing is the technique where a shrub is cut off at ground level
with regrowth coming from the base.
of the hedge - uselful guidelines...
brambles, nettles from the base of the hedge to secure a clear working
stems to remove:- non-native tree species, weaker spindly stems growing
at angles to the hedge
laying or coppicing...
the cut as close the ground as possible
frosty weather as good wood is likely to be more brittle and may snap
any material larger than the diameter of your wrist - this is too
large to lay and may not rejuvenate well
the 18th Century there were more hedgerow trees in Britain than
ever before or since. They served as a vital source of timber
and many were pollards. Oak, ash and elm were by far the commonest
species, and these were preferred for ship building. The second
half of the 18th Century saw a decline in the number of hedge trees
as a consequence of agricultural subsidies, Enclosure Acts and the
reorganisation of fields.
worse for young trees has been the fashion for tidiness, which continues
to prevail in many parishes. The numbers of hedgerow trees
has been in decline since trimming has become more commonplace.
Hedging and trimming formerly done once in five to ten years are
now done every year.
man with a tractor, brushing a ditch bank, can cut off a thousand saplings
in an hour without noticing they are there": (Oliver Rackham,
Social Forestry Network, 1989)
Somerset specific areas have lost large numbers of hedgerow trees
from Elm Disease, for example at Steart in Bridgwater Bay. Information
is available in the form of a Taunton Deane Borough Council leaflet
"The management of the Elm Hedgerow" and also the Butterfly
Conservation leaflet "Managing Elm for Hairstreak".
To encourage farmers and landowners to allow hedgerow saplings to
grow up, Somerset County Council has introduced the Hedgerow Tree
Grant as part of the Somerset Landscape Scheme. Visit the Grants
Page for more information and SHG guidance on tree tagging.
hedges should be planted with native species such as hawthorn, blackthorn,
hazel, dogwood and spindle. Plant whips (40-60cm) in a double row
(rows approx. 40cm apart) with plants staggered in the rows (plants
approx. 50cm apart in the rows). New plants will have to be protected
from livestock or browsing rabbits, hare or deer. Consider placing
a rabbit spiral or quill around each plant if browsing is a serious
problem. Minimise weed competition in the first 3-5 years after
planting with mulch of muck, wood chip or proprietary mulch mats.
is the practice of filling in gaps in hedgerows by planting whips
or saplings. The saplings should be of local provenance and species
already found within the hedge or adjacent hedges. As with
planting new hedges, a mulch is recommended to minimise competition
from weeds and to retain moisture.
ditching and field margins
upland hedges sit on earth banks which should be built up when a
hedge is restored. Traditionally, when a hedge was laid, the adjacent
ditch would have been dug out and the spoil cast-up
onto the hedge-bank to nourish the rejuvenating plants. The value
of a hedge will be greatly increased if a grass verge is next to
the hedge. This will not only provide a valuable habitat but will
also buffer the hedge from farming operations.
hedges with a flail is the most common and convenient way of managing
hedges. Used correctly the flail can produce well-structured
and dense hedges that have high wildlife and aesthetic value.
However, repeated annual flailing can have a detrimental effect
on the integrity and longevity of a hedge and will not benefit wildlife.
By gradually increasing the height and the width of a hedge, making
each cut slightly higher than the last cut, larger and better structured
hedges will result.
trim in winter from November to March
every other year (if necessary, cut annually on roadsides to maintain
visibility & safety)
for tall, thick hedges of 1.5-2metres (6-8ft)
the junctions between hedges to grow up for more nesting and song
post opportunities for birds
a chamfered profile rather than a flat top
hedge management over the farm, trim some hedges each year, leave
a list of hedge restoration, fencing and walling contractors click here.
Conservation, in association with FWAG, outline key management points
hedges to a variety of shapes and sizes across the farm
on rotation every 2 to 3 years (or even longer intervals) during February
and March, allowing flower and berry production in the intervening
years (NB annual cutting can be particularly harmful to some species)
1-2 metre (or wider) verge of tall grass by the hedge and rough-cut
sections in autumn
washing fertiliser application off the grazed or cultivated area (e.g.
by using deflector plates or pneumatic applicators)
use spot herbicide treatment on verges
all pesticide and fertiliser spray drift