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.