Monday, 23 January 2012

Hedgerow management

So, are farmers are all doing a good job in looking after our countryside? Well, the answer to that is some are, but some are not. Unfortunately, it is the case that the way many hedges are managed is both bad and prehistoric, both in action and attitude. The outcome is bad for the landscape, bad for wildlife and bad PR for the farming community at large . The picture on the left, taken this winter, says it all. This is part of a Devon roadside hedge and is just one example of how many hedges are still flailed annually within an inch of their lives.

Another 'hedge' being flailed into oblivion,
near Great Shefford, West Berks
We knew about how to manage hedgerows well decades ago - using chamfered cuts, allowing the hedge to grow taller and by cutting less-frequently. Over that time, successive government agencies and others have given thousands of talks, walks and advice on the matter. So those who continue to manage their hedges in such a crap way  can't claim ignorance. You would also think that whoever pays to have the hedgerow cut, would work out for themselves that their bottom line could be a tad healthier if their hedges were less-regularly cut. My only conclusion is that those who are responsible for "managing" hedges like the illustrated examples must be severely lacking in brain cells or they just don't care.

Of course such hedgerow mismanagement is terrible PR for the farming industry at large and an indictment of the Common Agricultural Policy, particularly the Cross Compliance requirements which do nothing to prevent inappropriate hedgerow management, while the Entry Level Stewardship scheme just allows farmers pretty well to carry on with what they have done before, whether good or bad.

The good news is, that, by restoring good hedge-management some of the farmland birds currently continuing to decline will return - such as Yellowhammer and Bullfinch, especially if at the same time farmers maintain and restore good-sized areas of flower-rich habitat.

Good hedge management isn't rocket science but those who continue to do the opposite should be outed and, under CAP reforms, such individuals and businesses should (in my view) lose their eligibility to receive any taxpayers' money to keep them in farming. There are plenty of others willing to take their place who would love to farm and manage our countryside in ways that are in harmony with the landscape and nature.

Link to hedgelink

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