The Devon Hedge
The Devon hedge consists of an earth bank faced with stone or turf which usually has bushy shrubs on the top. They are characteristically very old, rich in wildlife and visually very attractive.
Devon has more hedges remaining than any other county in the UK, reflecting its large size, its pastoral landscape and the favourable management and agricultural systems adopted by local farmers. It is estimated that there are 53,000 km (33,000 miles) of hedge still in the county, and that we have about 20% of all the species-rich hedges left in the UK.
Devon's hedgebanks are an intimate element of the farmed landscape and over large areas of the county are the main refuge for a wide range of plants and animals - the "biodiversity". The successful conservation of hedges is critical to that of Devon's characteristic landscapes and much of the county's wildlife.
Generations of farmers have been responsible for creating and managing these hedges as stock-proof barriers and shelter for livestock and crops. The hedges may mark changes in soil type and most are still valued by farmers as field boundaries and for shelter despite the introduction of stock fencing. Our hedges are also tremendously important historically. They preserve for us human decisions about the use of the landscape which often go back hundreds or even thousands of years. On the fringes of Dartmoor, some hedges continue the boundaries ('reaves') of Bronze Age field systems, some 3,500 years old. Most of our hedges are of, at least, medieval antiquity, with maybe a quarter of them being more than 800 years old.
Devon Hedge Group - Devon Hedges
The Devon Hedge Group is a forum of organisations and individuals interested in working together to promote the appreciation and conservation of hedges found across the county. Members of the Group represent the full range of interests associated with hedges in Devon, including agriculture, the conservation of wildlife and landscape, and historical and cultural values.
Formed in 1994, it has been steadily growing in strength and influence. It has succeeded in generating a great deal of media attention, and has already done much to raise the profile of hedges in the county.
RSPB Farm Hedges
Are you interested in the best way to manage farmland hedgerows for wildlife? These pages aim to give a balanced view of the practicalities of looking after farm hedgerows, says a little about their history, and gives details about where to go for further advice and information.
Value of hedgerows for wildlife
History of hedgerows
Hedgerow loss/gain: the position
Farmers and hedgerow management
When and how to trim
Advice & grant aid for hedge management and planting
RSPB. Giving Nature A Home
Hedgelink - All About Hedges
The first place to look for information on the UK's native hedges, hedgerow conservation and hedge management.
Importance of hedgerows
Hedgerows provide vital resources for mammals, birds, and insect species. As well as being an important habitat in their own right, they act as wildlife corridors allowing dispersal between isolated habitats.
Hedge trees are traditionally part of the UK landscape and havens for wildlife. Yet, of an estimated 1.8 million hedge trees, nearly a third are over a century old and may disappear from the landscape at any time over the next 25 years. Without an immediate effort to establish new hedge trees, there will be profound changes to the UK landscape and its biodiversity. Since the late 18th century the abundance of hedge trees has dramatically declined.