You can say what you want, but I am still at a loss, and probably forever will be, at how the English manage to keep the hedges and tree branches that hang over the road so nicely manicured. Unless there is some designated day in the year for carrying out this laborious chore, twenty-four hours in which every citizen stops whatever it is that they are doing and arms themselves with sheers, clippers and pruners, I cannot for the life of me explain how so many thousands, about 200,000 miles to be exact, of foliage are kept at bay…and here’s the thing, without anyone noticing it. Just how do they do it? We were on our third day of touring Great Britain’s greenest hills and dales and couldn’t quite figure it out. The roadways had been carved into, no bored. Not bored in the sense of boredom, but the participle of bore, to make a hole. Back in Connecticut trees abound, but you’d be nuts to think that public money is going to be spent on making sure all those limbs are smoothened. In Spain that’s not even an issue because there are so few trees around.
In Great Britain, tree and hedgerow management is an important issue, and how it is financed may explain a thing or two. It seems that on the minor roads, which make up 87% of the total, the responsibility falls upon the property owners. Regulating appears to be handled on a regional level, but sites like Natural England give you an idea of what it’s all about, and it is clear that they are matters not to be trifled with. Pdf files with intimidating titles like “Hedgerows and the law” are proof that if you are the proud owner of some overgrown shrubs, you’d better read up on your rights and obligations before to get the clippers out. The website even facilitates some helpful hints:
- You should avoid trimming hedgerows between 1 March and 31 July (as required by the guidelines) – the main nesting season for birds. Exemptions apply if the hedgerow overhangs a public highway or public footpath, or if it obstructs the view of drivers.
- It is best to leave trimming until the end of winter, but where it is impossible to get on the field at this time, trimming can be brought forward to early winter.
- Ground cover at the hedge’s base should be retained over winter for ground-nesting birds.
- It should also be noted that over-management – or trimming a hedge too severely – can have a detrimental effect on conservation. In general, taller, bushier hedgerows provide more wild life potential than smaller, thinner hedges.
- If conditions are such that you need to trim hedges when berries are still present, only the hedge’s sides should be trimmed, as this will leave some fruit.
- You should pay particular attention to the need to avoid spray and fertiliser drift into hedges, hedge verges and hedge bottoms.
- Livestock should be fenced away from hedgerows, and a strip of uncultivated or ungrazed land maintained between the hedge and the adjacent crop.
As you can see, this is business which is not to be taken lightly. So, maybe the fact that it was summer and prime nesting time explained the dearth of farmers in hats snipping away at green limbs, but it only made my awe greater as that meant the people had even less time to prime their properties for the general public.