The Devon Hedge
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, rich in wildlife and visually very attractive.
Devon has more hedges remaining than any other county in the UK, reflecting its large size, its pastoral landscape and the favourable management and agricultural systems adopted by local farmers. It is estimated that there are 53,000 km (33,000 miles) of hedge still in the county, and that we have about 20% of all the species-rich hedges left in the UK.
Devon's hedgebanks are an intimate element of the farmed landscape and over large areas of the county are the main refuge for a wide range of plants and animals - the "biodiversity". The successful conservation of hedges is critical to that of Devon's characteristic landscapes and much of the county's wildlife.
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.
Our hedges are also tremendously important historically. They preserve for us human decisions about the use of the landscape which often go back hundreds or even thousands of years. On the fringes of Dartmoor, some hedges continue the boundaries ('reaves') of Bronze Age field systems, some 3,500 years old. Most of our hedges are of, at least, medieval antiquity, with maybe a quarter of them being more than 800 years old.