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You are in: Devon > Nature > Nature Features > Hedgerows: A patchwork quilt across Devon

Hedgerows across the South Hams landscape

Hedges across the South Hams landscape

Hedgerows: A patchwork quilt across Devon

Devon has more hedgerows than any other county in England. Line them all up, and they would span 33,000 miles.

If you view Devon from the air, you'll see a landscape that can best be described as a patchwork quilt.

And if you go for a drive, the dominant roadside feature is the miles upon miles of hedgerows.

So it probably comes as no surprise to learn that Devon has more hedgerows than any other county in England.

High banked hedges flank a lane in Holbeton

High hedges flank a lane in Holbeton

It is estimated that there are 33,000 miles of hedgerow still in the county, and that we have about 20% of all the species-rich hedges left in the UK.

These figures are a reflection of Devon's pastoral landscape, and the management systems used by the farming community.

Devon's hedges also play an important part in the county's environment - and they are the main refuge for a wide range of plants and creatures.

As an example of this, a survey of species in a hedgebank at a farm in Chudleigh found 293 types of flowering plants.

Species-rich hedgerows are those which support key species such as the dormouse, greater horseshoe bat, cirl bunting, Devon carpet moth, brown hairstreak butterfly, balm-leafed figwort, hay-scented fern, primroses and bluebells.

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. Most of our hedges are of at least medieval antiquity, with perhaps a quarter of them being more than 800 years old.

A hedge full of berries in South Devon

A hedge full of berries in South Devon

On the fringes of Dartmoor, some hedges continue the boundaries of Bronze Age field systems, some 3,500 years old.

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.

Devon County Council has launched a biodiversity action plan to help preserve the species-rich hedgerows.

Many hedges have been removed in the past century, and it is hoped the conservation efforts will ensure our remaining network is saved for future generations.

last updated: 22/02/2008 at 10:51
created: 27/10/2005

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