Our Disappearing Hedgerows

Hedgerows Ireland Petition TD’s to Act

Have you ever rambled along a country road smelling the blossoms from overhanging trees and then reached in to the hedge to pick a few juicy blackberries? Or perhaps stooped down to the tar and gathered acorns where their little caps have popped off revealing a perfect oval nut? If so, then perhaps you’ll be interested in efforts being taken to protect Irish hedges. This week we look at a recent protest spearheaded by Hedgerows Ireland to highlight frustration with the inadequate protections and incentives for Irish hedges. During the protest the group handed over a signed letter and petition calling on the Minister to make immediate changes but first…

Who are Hedgerows Ireland?

Hedgerows Ireland are a broad alliance of interested parties that work towards the enhancement and protection of hedgerows in Ireland. The group is made up of landowners, farmers, nature lovers and more. Their website can be found at https://hedgerowsireland.org/ The group believe that hedgerows are key to solving or improving many of the challenges facing our countryside. These include:

Owl Population Directly Related to Hedgerows

  • Carbon capture.
  • Habitat corridors for a very wide range of bird, animal and invertebrate species including many threatened ones. Seriously threatened populations such as those of our native bats and owl rely heavily on hedgerows for hunting and foraging opportunities. 
  • Flood and drought reduction, water filtration.
  • Shelter.
  • Beauty and landscape identity

What do they want more of?

In a nutshell Hedgerows Ireland want more for farmers. The group believe that farmers should be incentivised for maintaining, expanding and protecting good quality hedgerows – they believe this can be achieved through farm schemes and the group are critical that the recent changes to CAP and agricultural payments which did little to improve the situation.

During recent public consultations organised by the Department of Agriculture, Hedgerows Ireland recommended a scheme to ensure that all existing hedgerows would be retained and maintained with either side cutting only, or no cutting of internal/non roadside boundaries and that these should be cut no lower than 2m.

Furthermore they proposed and outlined results based payments for hedgerows using recognized measures of quality (height, width, species,  diversity  etc.) Results based payments are already being successfully used in Ireland in regional schemes organised by the likes of BurrenLife and the Bride project.

What do they want to stop?

The group (and signatories from other leading bodies) want Minister McConalogue to immediately reduce the current permissible 500 metre hedgerow removal limit pending the outcome of the promised review by the Department of Agriculture. At present it’s legal in Ireland to remove up to 500 metres of ancient hedgerow without any oversight. Many of these hedges denote the boundaries of townlands, of historic land holdings and indeed contained essential trees, shrubs and flora that were an essential part of rural life in centuries gone by.

Removal of Entire Hedgerows is Widespread

Hedgerow Ireland report that approximately 3000 km of hedgerows are being removed annually in Ireland and the group say that many of these hedges are centuries old and are part of our rich heritage. Furthermore the group spare no punches in their criticism of state bodies, especially County Councils for their part in facilitating the ongoing destruction. The group also point to research that proved that less than one third of remaining hedgerows are in good condition.

Presentation of Letter to the Minister

Signatories to the Letter

The letter to Minister McConalogue was drafted by Dr Alan Moore of Hedgerows Ireland and cosigned by representatives from notable and vocal advocates for biodiversity and rural improvement such as the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, Native Irish Honey Bee Society, Federation of Irish Beekeepers, Talamh Beo, Burrenlife Project, Bride Project, An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, Munster Regional Trout Angling Council, Irish Doctors for the Environment, Mick Kelly, GIY Waterford, Irish Wildlife Trust and Woodlands of Ireland.

Close to Nature Forestry In Leitrim

I recently visited Seán Ó Conláin’s forest to learn about his efforts to work with nature while still making the forest economically viable.

Edergole Forest
Critics often complain that single species plantation forestry, especially conifers, are staid and lifeless areas. However this forest, located in the rolling hills of County Leitrim is wonderful. A towering ancient oak greets you on your approach up the driveway to the house. And behind the house, when you walk through Edergole forest you get a wonderful feeling of being immersed deep in nature. A wide range of plants grow under the canopy of high trees and the birds sing noisily in the background. The original hedgerows and ditches that once separated the original fields are still in situ and are rich with a mosaic of common countryside flora. So how did it get like this?

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For Peat’s Sake


The recent move by Eamon Ryan to ban the harvesting of peat in Ireland caused an uproar. Peat has been used for heating and cooking in Ireland for centuries. Turbary rights, which are part of Ireland’s intangible cultural heritage, have meant that people living in homesteads in rural areas have inherited a right to cut and remove turf from specific plots of peatland linked to these dwelling houses. In more recent times, peat has been used commercially in horticulture and former peatlands have been used for afforestation and in agriculture. But, when we look at peat extraction, and the damage it is doing to what is left of our wetlands, against the backdrop of climate change, biodiversity loss and carbon sequestration, it is inescapably evident that extraction practices cannot continue. The growing impact of smoky fuels on human health also cannot be ignored.

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World Curlew Day


The Curlew is a shorebird and is easily recognised by its long curving bill. As  Ireland’s largest wader that is famous for its evocative call, the species is also distinguished by long legs, a bulky grey-brown body with dark streaks, and a long neck.

The long, curved beak is perfectly adapted for probing the wetlands, bogs, salt marshes and other watery terrain for food. The curlew feeds mostly on invertebrates and on insects, earthworms and larvae when wintering inland. According to the http://www.birdwatch.ie, numbers and range of the Curlew have declined substantially in recent decades and it is currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is likely that increased afforestation and agricultural intensification are two factors which have contributed to its decline. World Curlew Day raises awareness of curlews everywhere.

There are eight species of curlew worldwide and two are assumed extinct. The Eskimo and the Slender-Billed have not been seen for decades. Out of the remaining six species, there are three that are at risk of extinction – the Eurasian, the Bristle-thighed and the Far Eastern.

Photo: Fearghal Duffy

Wildlife Crime


In recent weeks in County Monaghan, there have been reports of a number of wildlife crimes being committed – examples include the dredging of stretches of river where there are nesting birds, spawning fish and otters have been seen, and the cutting/removal of non-obscuring hedgerows with mature trees. The public is advised to report wildlife crimes to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) but the organisation is in disarray and County Monaghan has not been allocated a Wildlife Ranger. With no straightforward and immediate way to bring perpetrators to justice, they are currently having the last laugh at the expense of our wildlife. The biodiversity crisis is at a critical point and this cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.

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Biodiversity Loss


In this article, John Gibbons discusses the biodiversity crisis that is currently unfolding as species after species is lost to extinction due to global warming. Based in Dublin, John has been writing and speaking about environmental and climate-related issues for the last decade and a half. He regularly contributes to Today FM, the Guardian, the Business Post, is the person behind the http://www.climatechange.ie website and maintains a blog at http://www.thinkorswim.ie.

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Invasive Alpine Newt found in Ireland

Scientists have found an invasive species of alpine newt in three counties in Ireland. The amphibian has been found in five different locations in Co Offaly, Co Tipperary and Co Down. The alpine newt has the potential to have a detrimental impact on local biodiversity by acting as competition to native species, and by transmitting a disease called chytrid to native amphibian species such as the Common Frog, Smooth Newt and Natterjack toad. Chytrid has driven many species of species to extinction in the tropics.

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TM trip to Lough Muckno March 2022

Members of Transition Monaghan took a trip to Lough Muckno to hear from “Friends of Lough Muckno” who shared their concerns about Monaghan County Councils Vision for developing the area. The Vision created by external consultants would result in a huge impact on the landscape and risk damage to already weakened habitats and water quality.

A proposed enormous development threatens biodiversity at Lough Muckno
Liam Murtagh addresses the group and explaining the likely impacts of the “Vision”
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Rossmore Park


Renewable power, hidden lakes and tropical fruit! Many readers will be familiar with the fantastic playground, wooden giants and scenic walkways to be discovered in Rossmore Park. However, there’s even more to learn about this historic landscape if you have a closer look. Exploring and enjoying our own localities is an important aspect of the journey towards environmental sustainability: once we understand and are aware of what’s around us, we are more inclined to protect and preserve it. As an added bonus, you might be able to motivate the kids to go exploring (beyond the playground) if you promise hot chocolate to whoever can find the most points of interest, of which there are many. Dermot McNally takes us on a tour.

Image taken from Monaghan Tourism website
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