Conservation of our hedgerows.

This is the time of year when the least savoury aspect of ‘conservation’ in the modern Welsh ‘agri-environmentally unfriendly’ world smacks you in the face.  The trashing of hedgerows by ‘flail’ type trimmers (trim is hardly the word – wmd suits better !) is the biggest obscenity that befalls the countryside in the spring and autumn.  Just as the buds of new leaves begin to bulge in readiness for the warmer and longer days, along comes a tractor mounted with one of these scuds and smashes the trees of the hedgerows to smithereeens – apparently to keep it ‘looking tidy’ (a comment most often forthcoming when I question either the operators of such wmds or the land owner).  The process involves driving slowly along the hedgerow (often causing immense damage by creating hugely deep ruts in the roadside verges in which water then accumulates, causing problems for the road user and, more importantly, for the flora and fauna that live in these highly valuable corridors) and trashing the hedge with a mounted set of spinning chains, somewhat akin to the old spiked ball and chain hand-held weapon of medieval knights (the sort of thing that every visitor to 1960s Spain brought home with them), which tears the stems of the trees creating a casualty ward of multitudinous ‘green-stick fractures’.  It amazes me how large the stems are that can broken,  I recently measured five inch diameter stems of ash trees that had been torn in this way.  Far from looking ‘tidy’ – an oft used word in vernacular Welsh society to describe something that is well done, interestingly I get it said now and then, about my dry stone walls, alas only once have I had the even greater acclamation of “that’s half-tidy”  which is one step up from “tidy” in certain valley communities.  (the one I cherish is the rarely used “that stands looking at”, which seems a peculiarly north Breconshire/Radnorshire expression) the hedgerows resemble an old black and white photo of the battlefields of the Great War.

Of course the argument is always about road-safety, these hedges must be maintained to preserve visibility, just as is the equally devastating and even greater abuse of countryside habitat, the cutting of the roadside verges.  Why, oh why, do these activities have to take place in the very weeks that the plants – of both habitats – are at their most productive.  Just as the leaves bud, smash them, just as the wayside wild flowers and herbs begin to emerge, cut them, if any survive into adulthood and begin to seed, for good measure,  smash or cut them again, oh yes, and just in-case any get through and fruits begin to appear in the autumn, smash them again.  Why is this allowed to go on.  Why does the motor car – which is pilloried everywhere else in environmental arguments – take prescedence over nature ?  What are the implications and what should we be doing ?  Read on…

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