• “Hedgerows are an integral part of the English countryside,” says Emma Marrington, the senior policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). “They are the patchwork quilts of our countryside.” 
    Hedgerows—rows of shrubs or trees planted as boundary lines—share many qualities with a comfortable quilt. They offer warmth, protection and a place to nest for a wide range of species: butterflies, bats, birds, hedgehogs, and dormice. 
    The CPRE, a London-based organization dedicated to keeping the English countryside a thriving place, has noted the many ways hedgerows have become essential to plant and animal species in England. 
    “They have . . . a huge, huge benefit to the landscape and biodiversity,” Marrington says.
    “Bumblebees, for example, they will shelter within the grass and bottom of hedgerows over winter,” Marrington says. “They are almost housing for nature I suppose.”
    Bats, on the other hand, often use hedgerows for navigation
    “They [hedgerows] are almost like the bat’s motorways,” Marrington says. “Instead of going across fields, they will follow the hedgerow line.”
    The protected hazel dormouse utilizes hedgerows in a few ways. 
    “They will hibernate [in hedgerows] over winter and emerge in spring, and spend a lot of time above ground in the trees and scrub,” Marrington says. “Then they start feeding on the [two prominent hedgerow plant species] blackthorn and hawthorn in April. They also use it as a dispersal corridor so it’s a link between small woodlands for foraging as well and for breeding populations too.”
    Historic Hedges
    Emily Ledder, Natural England’s lead adviser on biodiversity delivery, explains in an email why this distinct feature has been a part of England’s rural landscape for hundreds of years. 
    “Hedgerows are lines of shrubs which were originally planted to mark ownership and provide a barrier to prevent the movement of stock such as sheep and cattle,” she says. “In the UK, many were planted as part of the Enclosures Acts in the early 19th century, however, many are much older than this. In Devon, for example, we believe that a quarter of our hedges are more than 800 years old. That’s older than many parish churches. And some are underlain by banks built in the Bronze Age times four thousand years ago. Others are older still, being remnants of the original wildwood that covered Britain and Ireland before man started to carve out his fields.”
    Marrington says some hedgerows began to be ripped out of the English countryside in the mid-1900s. 
    “During the Second World War, a lot of hedgerows were taken up so that you had large fields where you could actually grow food and resources to help feed the people and feed the nation,” she says.
    Since the 1970s, CPRE had lobbied to pass legislation that would protect hedgerows if they were historic or provided habitat for a large amount of plants and animals. Regulation for a majority of countryside hedgerows became law in 1997. 
    “If a landowner was going to remove that hedge, they would have to apply to a local council for permission to remove that hedgerow,” Marrington says.
    The law doesn’t protect all hedgerows, however. 
    “If it’s a younger hedgerow, say under 30 years old, and it is shorter than 20 meters [66 feet] long as well, then it doesn’t come under hedgerow regulation,” Marrington says.
    Ledder notes how hedgerows are important to more than plant and animal species. “Today, predominately due to the invention of barbed wire, they are no longer able to fulfill their original function as a stock-proof barrier,” she says. “However, hedgerows and their associated trees, banks, ditches and margins provide a wide range of valuable services that benefit people. They include not only biodiversity services, but also regulating services such as landscape aesthetics and historical heritage, and provisioning services such as firewood and food.”
    Carbon Capture
    Hedgerows can also assist in the fight against climate change. Each kilometer of a new hedgerow has the capacity to store 600 to 800 kilograms [1,323 to 1,764 pounds] of carbon dioxide per year for up to 20 years. 
    “They store carbon and provide firewood as well, which is a renewable fuel,” Marrington says.
    The lines of hedgerows drawn all over the English countryside have given people like Marrington something else for hundreds of years: peace of mind. 
    “I certainly find when you see a really good hedgerow—really sort of bushy with loads of flowers—it is really peaceful,” she says.
    Marrington suggests downloading the CPRE’s “A Little Rough Guide around the Hedges” and then utilizing it for a greater appreciation of hedgerows when visiting the English countryside. 
    “Try to identify different plant species within it,” she says. “Just get engaged and look at the bottom of a hedgerow and start pulling back a bit of grass to see what insects and creatures are within a hedgerow.”
    Hedges of Biodiversity
    Hedgerows are the historic "patchwork quilts of the English countryside."
    Hills of Hedges
    Devon, a hilly county in southwest England, is known for its rich hedgerows. Devon’s hedges allegedly stretch close to 53,100 kilometers (33,000 miles).
    Historic Hedge
    Judith’s Hedge in Cambridgeshire is estimated to be more than 900 years old.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adviser Noun

    person who offers informed advice about an issue.

    aesthetics Noun

    study of beauty.

    bank Noun

    a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.

    barbed wire Noun

    twisted metal with sharpened points, often used for fences.

    barrier Noun

    obstacle or object that prevents movement.

    benefit Verb

    to be helpful or useful.

    biodiversity Noun

    all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: biodiversity
    boundary Noun

    line separating geographical areas.

    Encyclopedic Entry: boundary
    breed Verb

    to produce offspring.

    Bronze Age Noun

    time period between the Stone Age and the Iron Age. The Bronze Age lasted between 3000 BCE and 500 BCE.

    cattle Noun

    cows and oxen.

    climate change Noun

    gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate change
    council Noun

    group of people selected to act in an advisory, administrative, or legislative capacity.

    disperse Verb

    to scatter or spread out widely.

    distinct Adjective

    unique or identifiable.

    emerge Verb

    to develop or come into view.

    essential Adjective


    food Noun

    material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

    Encyclopedic Entry: food
    forage Verb

    to search for food or other needs.

    fuel Noun

    material that provides power or energy.

    function Verb

    to work or work correctly.

    habitat Noun

    environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: habitat
    hedgerow Noun

    line of bushes and trees forming a boundary.

    heritage Noun

    cultural or family background.

    hibernate Verb

    to reduce activity almost to sleeping in order to conserve food and energy, usually in winter.

    integral Adjective

    very important.

    landscape Noun

    the geographic features of a region.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landscape
    legislation Noun

    law, legal act, or statute.

    livestock noun, plural noun

    animals raised for sale and profit.

    lobby Verb

    to try to influence the action of government or other authority.

    margin Noun

    border or edge.

    motorway Noun

    British highway, or road for fast-moving traffic.

    navigation Noun

    art and science of determining an object's position, course, and distance traveled.

    Encyclopedic Entry: navigation
    parish Noun

    subdivision of a church diocese, having its own church and member of the clergy.

    permission Noun

    authorization to do something.

    policy Noun

    set of actions or rules.

    population Noun

    total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

    predominately Adverb

    strongly or overruling.

    prominent Adjective

    important or standing out.

    protect Verb

    to take action to prevent injury or attack.

    provision Noun

    materials necessary to complete a task, such as food or tools.

    quilt Noun

    coverlet made of two layers of fabric with a soft material between, decoratively stitched together.

    regulation Noun

    rule or law.

    remnant Noun

    something that is left over.

    renew Verb

    to restore or begin again.

    resource Noun

    available supply of materials, goods, or services. Resources can be natural or human.

    rural Adjective

    having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.

    scrub Noun

    area of arid grassland covered with low-lying trees and bushes.

    shelter Noun

    structure that protects people or other organisms from weather and other dangers.

    shrub Noun

    type of plant, smaller than a tree but having woody branches.

    thrive Verb

    to develop and be successful.

    utilize Verb

    to use.

    woodland Noun

    land covered with trees, usually less dense than a forest.

    Encyclopedic Entry: woodland