Destruction of hedges and hedgerow trees

With the introduction of modern farming methods and the pressure for higher crop yields, hedges and hedgerow trees are eliminated to create more rational field sizes. Such destruction reduces the amenity value of the countryside and eliminates valuable habitats for birds and insects which help destroy pests and pollinate crops.
When the Romans arrived, today's UK was already a hedged land; the only man-made thing older on the horizon is Stonehenge. Generations of Britons have kept on nurturing the ancient ones and adding new ones. The destruction of the hedgerows began only after World War II. Much of England in 1945 would have been instantly recognizable by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century, and some areas would have been recognized by the Emperor Claudius, when he took part in the Roman invasion of Britain in A.D. 43.
Since the end of World War II till 1997, estimated 320,000 kilometres of hedgerows were destroyed in the UK. Just between 1985 and 1997, 184,000 kilometres of the roughly 640,000 kilometres of hedgerows that crisscrossed England and Wales have been ripped out and burned.
1. Quickset hedges increase yield and foster early growth in certain sizes of fields, by reducing evapo-transpiration or increasing temperature.

2. Protection is offered against the damaging effects of wind and hail; hedges provide the animals with shelter, thus reducing veterinary costs.

3. Hedgerows act as water regulating reservoirs, limiting soil erosion and bleaching.

4. Land covered by quickset hedges can be considered ecologically balanced, if no one factor can predominate (pullulation of rodents, drought etc). The presence of a wide variety of species has an overall balancing effect (birds of prey as predators of the common mole, insectivorous birds, insects as pollenizing agents, parasites of crop ravagers).

5. Developers and agribusiness interests have been razing British land, and in the process ridding it of its most singular visual characteristics: the brambly hedgerows that articulate this rolling land and arise in any mind's-eye evocation of English countryside.

6. British hedgerows are being sacrificed by developers of housing subdivisions, business parks and suburban malls and by big farmers whose cumbersome combine harvesters and sprayers cannot negotiate the boundaries and corners created by the barriers.

7. English hedgerows have assumed a totemic significance in our feelings about the countryside. They are a symbol of everything that seems good about our landscape. They require care. They exist, because generations of men laid and tended them as lovingly as their successors might polish cars on a Sunday afternoon.

8. Aside from their historical and aesthetic value, hedgerows in England represent the country's most important haven for wildlife and plant species. And their destruction is causing the kind of alarm that arises over the disappearance of primary forest. Hedges are home to crab apple, spindle, hawthorn, hazel, beech, cherry, pine, plum, aspen, privet, service, sycamore, whitebeam, blackthorn, oak, ash, field maple, willow, elder birch, dog rose, broom, dogwood, holly beech and yew. In the spring they turn snowy with white May blossom, honeysuckle, daffodils, orchids and pale violets.

9. British winding hedges shelter footpaths and roadways and provide corridors for plant seedlings, lowland animals and birds. Some of them are the relics of former woodland, some were planted in the Bronze Age, some are spontaneous, rising out of untended dry stone walls and fences. They figure in the landscape paintings of Constable and the poetry of Shakespeare, Swift, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, John Clare and even Robert Frost, who spent the summer of 1914 in a 17th-century timbered cottage with a famous hedged path in nearby Dymock. John Betjeman wrote in his pastoral "Middlesex" that the only things preserving "our lost Elysium" were "a few surviving hedges".

1. Removal of hedges allows modern farming machinery to be used to best advantage, avoids the cost of maintaining hedges, prevents the propagation of pests and weeds associated with them, eliminates the shade which in the case of high hedges reduces crop yield, and increases the available land.

2. Hedges come and hedges go.

3. Farmers are simply trying to "rationalize" the landscape while hedgerow enthusiasts are "fossilizing" it.

4. Despite destruction of hedgerows, there is still a huge difference between even the most open of English counties and the prairie farming of Canada and the USA, and I expect that difference to be maintained for a long time to come.

(D) Detailed problems