Freeman’s Wood, Lancaster

I’ve just been contacted by John Angus about a really interesting project on land ownership near Lancaster: I will let him explain and give the link:

I am running an art project about landownership which I thought might be of interest to you, even though it does not feature any hedges, only a fence. 
The project focusses on a plot of land known as Freeman’s Wood, which is on the edge of the city of Lancaster, as an illustrative example. This site has been used by local people for decades, and they have regarded it as common land, but fencing was installed around it in 2012, resulting in public unrest and reports in the local press.
The land is owned by a property investment company which is registered in Bermuda. The director of the UK development company for the site is a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles. So this scrubby patch of land has direct links to global economic, political, and social networks.
I commissioned three sets of artists to produce artworks to stimulate thought about, and raise awareness of, the issue of landownership.  
Layla Curtis has produced an iPhone app called TRESPASS, featuring GPS tracked conversations.  The user has to consider trespassing to hear all of them.   Goldin+Senneby bought a plot of land and produced a script about its history.  This script is now the description of the plot in a fake estate agent’s sale particulars. 
Sans Facon created a board game which requires players to role-play the various stakeholders in a plot of land, and negotiate responses to various events. 
There is more information on our website

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Hedge project at Hilperton and Paxcomb

I’ve just been told about a lovely local hedge project at Hilperton and Paxcomb in Wiltshire. To quote:

Over the coming months Alex Murdin and other community representatives will be asking new and old residents to get creative in rediscovering the hedges and fields of the past and looking at ways of continuing to grow and nurture plants and wildlife in and around today’s new village and homes. With the aim of supporting local biodiversity and making up for hedgerows which were lost we’ll be hoping to plant some edible wild plants in public spaces with local volunteers. We’ll also be trying to discover what residents are now growing on the old fields, in their gardens or even inside their homes.hEdges of Hilperton and Paxcroft Mead is an art project celebrating the unique heritage of the area and in particular the old fields and hedges. The ancient field systems which have grown over thousands of years have shaped both the old village the way new housing has been planned.

They’ve even got a free foraging and hedgerow drink making event on the 23rd of Maywhere you can make a hedgerow cocktail and ‘go foraging with the award winning Ethicurian team’

Sounds fabulous. Full details at

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Dull Men’s Club

Lots of slightly weird activity this week as the Dull Men of Great Britain 2015 calendar is getting a lot of publicity. I was asked to be in and, while I obviously think hedges are interesting, not dull, it seemed like a fun thing to do. Here is an article in the Telegraph.

This is me on the ITV London News:

I’ll also be on the One Show tonight in another piece. I’ll stop short of posting the bit where they talked about the calendar on Loose Women, just to say it was suitably surreal.

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At the Cutting Edge – hedge poetry

Here’s another charming poem from Nizgal (whose Sheep from Oats I put on the blog last year) – he has belatedly got in touch, very nice to hear from him.
At the Cutting Edge
Crabwise from side to side, cutting the hedge;
Once done on ladders, garden shears in hand,
Now cherry-pickers give a cutting edge,
As powered trimmers sweep the green grandstand;
A steady pace per hour.  Loose clippings sold
To pharmaceuticals, the plants and lab,
Where yew extract is worth its weight in gold,
And hope to those now pincered by the crab.
That battle is engaged, though some would say,
It’s fought on ladders with old-fashioned tools.
They desperately look forward to the day
When new discoveries rewrite the rules.
The yearly picture serves to underline
The tolling bell could be both yours and mine.

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A “topiary” elephant in the Rose Garden, Regent’s Park

I was in the Rose Garden in Regent’s Park yesterday with my daughter and we came across this rather lovely elephant at the entrance. I didn’t have my camera so have borrowed this image from the Sequins and Cherry Blossom blog.

Not sure I’d call it topiary as it is trained over a wire frame, but I like it anyway. Apparently it’s made from ‘over three thousand plants from a range of species including Echeveria, Ajuga, Sedum and Alternanthera’. A lot of the individual plants look to me like desert or rock plants, which will survive with fairly shallow roots.

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Letter from West Cumberland

I just got a lovely letter from Barrie Clark, after he read Hedge Britannia. He was a farmer’s son in West Cumberland (not Cumbria) in the 1950s, so knows the importance of a good hedge. He says:

Incidentally, we never called them hedges on farms or countryside. Hedges were those poor excuses full of privet in front of mean 1930s semis on the loop road in Whitehaven. Inhabited by schoolteachers etc. NOT farmers who as we know are the only important people on God’s earth. We  called hedges/hedgerows DIKES! and talked of dikebacks. Hedgerows were some southern genteelism invented by the sort of people who produced those patronising Ministry of Information films about the countryside, full of cheery Kentish hop-pickers and picturesque gypsies in Enid Blyton caravans. We had dikes which real men tackled with billhooks, mells (or hammers) and axes. My father’s laying of a hedge was to watch an art form being produced. We did not cut hedges, we DESSED them. I had my own small ancient ‘bill’ which had probably seen service at Agincourt. It was worn, light and deadly.

Today Barrie has a hedge or native and exotic shrubs around his garden. As he says:

It marks my land. As Mr O’Hara in Gone with the Wind puts it to Scarlett: ‘Land is the only thing that lasts.’

Finally he sent me a cutting of this story about a recent hedge dispute:

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July 1, 2013 · 3:20 pm

Gillian Anderson and the hedge…

Quote from a Guardian piece about Gillian Anderson, of The Fall, the X-Files etc:

Anderson was born in Chicago, but her parents moved to London when she was two and she lived in the north London borough of Haringey until she was 11, while her father studied film. The family later moved back to the US and settled in Michigan. Anderson – who had been a bit of a punk at school and was once voted “most likely to get arrested” by her classmates – moved to New York to try to make it as an actor.

London, though, remained a draw (she speaks with an English accent). “Even after moving to America, I always had a yearning for England,” she said in an interview last year. “I’d come back and smell the hedgerows; it always felt like some part of my insides were being pulled back here.”

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Robert Macfarlane on “Holloway”

This is an interesting story about the development of a rather lovely book:

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Hedgerow Decline Threatens Wildlife

interesting BBC story on the sad decline of our hedgerows.

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The World Turned Upsidedown

The lyrics to Leon Rosselson’s song about the Diggers and enclosures. I think the Dick Gaughan version is my favourite. It might be more accurate if the words were changed to “Now everywhere the hedges, Spring up at their command…”

In 1649

To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common
And to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it will be
A common treasury for all

The sin of property
We do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Now everywhere the walls
Spring up at their command

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich
While poor folk starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters
Or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The orders came to cut them down

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