"For well over a thousand years hedgerows have been a defining attribute of rural England, the stitching that holds the fabric of the countryside together" - Bill Bryson, CPRE President.
Traditionally thorny species such as hawthorn and blackthorn have been used in hedges as they sprout readily from ground level and quickly create a stock proof boundary. As a hedge matures many other locally native species will thrive within the hedgerow, such as hazel, holly, field maple, bramble and dog rose, whilst in the herb layer many woodland edge plants can thrive including primrose, dog’s mercury, ransoms, herb Robert, sancile, wood sorrel, wood anemone and wood speedwell.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is typically associated with dry stone walls, however hedgerows are the dominant field boundary in Dentdale and in the Howgills near Sedbergh and are localised in Bishopdale, Malhamdale, Thornton in Lonsdale, and some areas of upper Wharfedale and lower Swaledale.
For hedgerows to continue to thrive and serve as stock proof boundaries they need to be regularly and sensitively maintained. With regular trimming and occasional layering hedgerows can be maintained in a functional, vigorous state indefinitely. Hedge laying is the traditional form of hedgerow management.
As with many crafts hedge laying is partly a skill and partly artistic and many differing styles have developed over the country to best suit the local variations in farming practices. The most common style used within the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the Lancashire and Westmorland style, which is common throughout south Cumbria and the Craven District area. The Yorkshire Style is also used in those parts of Yorkshire outside Craven. Both styles have the pleachers laid over at about 45 degrees and create a dense hedge designed to keep in sheep and lambs.
Farmers and landowners need support to manage and restore their hedgerows if we are to retain and enhance this traditional and valuable resource. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, alongside its partners, works with landowners to encourage proactive management of hedgerows through advice, support and access to appropriate grants.