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Trees and Hedges

Hedges

In his book In his book, Ancient Trees, Living Landscapes Muir says that hedgerows today are essentially of two types. There are those which result from 18th century enclosure acts and there are other older ones. Those planted as a result of the enclosure acts were generally monocultures of nursery-grown quickthorn, about seven to the yard with trees sometimes interspersed: oak, ash or elm.

The older hedgerows had a variety of origins. Some might be boundary features of pre-Norman or even prehistoric vintage. Some might be the result of people exchanging or selling their pieces of land to make small fields which could be enclosed to hold cattle or sheep. We know that much of the land in Elsfield was enclosed by 1703, which suggests that some of the hedges now in place may be of older vintage. However Muir makes the point very forcefully that one should not confuse the age of the boundary with the age of the hedge.

It has been thought that the number of species counted in a 30 foot stretch of hedging can indicate the age of the hedge. To this end in 1996 Ann Cole produced a map of Elsfield parish showing the species count of each hedge. Muir pours scorn on this, saying that this is analogous to saying that the age of a bus can be deduced from the number of people travelling in it. Muir, however, is a geographer turned landscape archaeologist, not a botanist.


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