Are our hedges healthy?

Between Sandford & Newbuildings. Vestigial hedge above a high bank
Between Newbuildings & Copplestone. A dwarf hedge on NNW side of field
Sandford - Newbuildings. Verdant verge growth, but gappy and stunted hedge on N side of fiel;d
Lovely view between Newbuildings & Copplestone, but note tiny field hedges in middle distance

When I moved to Devon nearly twenty years ago, it was a delight to behold a landscape still generously endowed with hedgerows: I had arrived from Norfolk, a county of huge arable fields with little by way of hedges at all, in many parts.

However, looking more closely at some of our local hedges reveals a less than healthy picture in terms of their potential to support biodiversity and wildlife. They are often stunted and gappy, frequently not more than a couple of feet high. This is often disguised by th height of the banks upon which they are growing.

The Devon Hedge Group has lots of guidance and advice on hedge maintenance, some of it potentially offering a saving to landowners in time and money; for example in recommending that hedges are cut one year in three rather than every year.

Crop shading may be an issue, though on a recent look round locally it was evident that even road-side hedges on the north side of fields, where shading is not a factor, are often closely shaven.

I wonder if our landowners could adopt a different approach, to the great benefit of the natural world? Or if this is difficult, what are the barriers preventing them?

If you are a landowner, or have experience and expertise in hedge maintenance, we would welcome your views. Get in touch at