Monthly Archives: September 2011

Hedge Wars – BBC hedge dispute documentary

There was an interesting (if slightly fluffy) documentary on the problems caused between neighbours by overgrown leylandii on BBC1 tonight. It can be watched again on the iPlayer.

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The Hedgerows of Flore and One O’Clock Farm

One late summer day in Northamptonshire, I’ve stopped for tea at the wonderfully named Bliss Lane Nursery. In the village of Flore, past Meadow Farm, this is a small haven, with greenhouses full of plants, and a small farm area to the rear, where you can take children to meet the baby lambs.

On the wall of the tearoom, there is an old field map of the Parish of Flore.  This gives the name of every field in the area, including Middle Big Close, Eleven Acres, Worzel Furlong and Amos’s Close. It’s a charming document, which Geof Littlewood proudly explains for me. The farm belongs to his wife and brother-in-law, and has been in the family for over a hundred years. But the field map gives us a glimpse into the more distant past, to the time of the local enclosures, which continue to shape the area today. Comparing the map to a satellite image of the village and the local housing grid it is clear that the old field system is more or less the same pattern as the modern lanes and houses, even where the fields are no longer in existence.

It’s just one example of the way that the hedge lines of the countryside shaped our landscape today. And even where that countryside has been turned into town, the fields were often sold off piecemeal and gradually meaning that streets and blocks of housing still follow the old hedges.

In Burgess Hill, where I grew up, we used to be able to walk to nearby Ditchling Common through an abandoned farm called One o’Clock Farm. It was a lovely walk, ten minutes from where we lived, as the fields were overgrown and the hedgerows were full of wild flowers, butterflies and birds. At the centre there were a few derelict farm buildings, sinking gracefully into disrepair.

Then the land was sold to developers and turned into a housing estate. As children we hated the builders as they ploughed the farm into mud, then concreted over our beautiful countryside. We used to go and feebly attempt to sabotage the diggers that were left parked over the weekend, to no avail. The area which was occupied is easily traced on a modern map or satellite image, being the furthest reach of the town on that side to this day.

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Filed under Historical Hedges, Rural Britain

The book cover is up on Amazon

Nice to see Amazon now have the cover for the book on display. Previously it was just a title with a blank image…

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Topiary and Doctor Who

I like topiary. I also like Doctor Who.

It’s rare for these two interests to overlap in any way, so I was very taken by the garden design in this week’s episode “The Girl Who Waited”, which Amy greeted with the line “Freaky hedges…”

It struck me as being like a futuristic version of the fabulous Levens Hall topiaries. Though I suppose there is also some resemblance to the lovely topiaries in Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland.

For some reason I can’t get an image to load here, but you can see it at this link:

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Are you a cycling psychopath?

I’ve been cycling to work lately – there are far more cyclists and bike lanes on London’s roads than there used to be. This is good as it is far greener and, in my case, makes me much healthier and fitter now I am using the car less.

However you also see a fair bit of reckless driving and cycling on the road. I drive and walk as well as cycling, and my reasonably neutral observation is that, while bad drivers are the worst danger and most likely to kill someone, cyclists are often the ones who take the most persistent risks, perhaps because it is easier for them to ignore the rules of the road. And while reckless cyclists aren’t as likely to kill someone, they do endanger themselves, as well as other cyclists and pedestrians.

So, partly with my own cycling behaviour (not always perfect…) in mind, here’s a Cosmo-style quiz to monitor whether your cycling is verging on the pscyhopathic.

1. Red lights are

A. A good way to regulate traffic flow

B. Kind of optional, but proceed with care

C. For losers

2. When taking a shortcut on the pavement

A. I dismount and walk

B. I cycle slowly, giving pedestrians priority

C. I do what I want, it’s just another part of my infinite domain

3. If I nearly collide with a car

A. I usually apologise to the driver, unless it was clearly their fault

B. I shout at the driver, but later ponder whether I was cycling safely

C. It is yet more proof that all drivers are bastards who want to kill me

4. Undertaking on the left in traffic is

A. Usually dangerous

B. A calculated risk

C. My divine right

5. Cycle lanes are

A. Useful safety channels

B. A good opportunity to go faster

C. For lesser mortals, don’t cramp my style

6. Cycling is greener than driving a car so…

A. It’s good to encourage cycling where possible

B.I feel pretty smug about not using a car

C. Car drivers are the devil incarnate

7. One-way streets…

A. Are always to be observed

B. Don’t really apply to cyclists, so long as you are careful

C. No-one tells me where I can ride

8. There are pedestrians crossing the road in my path…

A. So I brake and prepare to stop and wait

B. So I slow down slightly, and ring my bell to hurry them out of my way

C. Make way, sheeplike fools! Superior being approaching!

9. Speed is

A. An added risk factor in many accidents

B. Exciting, especially on the hills

C. My middle name

10. My attitude to cycling is

A. It’s a useful tool to get me from A to B

B. It makes me feel a bit special

C.  If I weren’t too worthy to be a motorist I’d probably behave like Jeremy Clarkson. As it is my fancy bike and superior behavior make me somewhat akin to a god.


Mostly As. Seriously? I’m not sure I believe anyone is that sensible and boring, but at least you probably won’t hurt anyone.

Mostly Bs. Not too psychopathic yet, but you need to keep an eye on the sense of entitlement and the risk factor.

Mostly Cs. Totally psycho, but on the bright side, next time you crash, your overweening sense of importance will enable you to blame everyone but yourself.

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Who owns a hedge? (And the fence my neighbours burnt down)

One of today’s internet searches that led someone here was “who owns a hedge that was planted before tenants rented the property?”

It’s an interesting question as the law over boundaries is fairly complex and there are various bits of grey area in any attempt to answer this question.

Clearly if the tenants didn’t plant the hedge they have no claim on it, and probably wouldn’t in any case, since the garden is part of the property and planting something in it would probably just count as part of “maintenance.” (Though of course if they planted something in a pot it would remain their property, and they might be able to lay claim to individual plants that had been planted in the garden, depending on the tenancy agreement).

Beyond that, the other important question is who has responsibility for the boundary. A fence or hedge along a boundary falls under the area of boundary law, which can be quite fiddly. For the most part the lease will indicate that one party or the other is responsible for the boundary. This means they are responsible for its maintenance and that the other party doesn’t have the right to maintain it as they choose. This is obviously the root of many disputes over hedges, where for instance, a neighbour allows the hedge they are responsible for to become overgrown. (The best plan in all cases is to have a good relationship with your neighbour and make sure you discuess boundary maintenance if there are any potential problems – hedge disputes are much more likely to arise when neighbours are on bad terms in the first place).

It’s important to note that this applies no matter who planted the hedge or built the fence in the first place. For legal safety, you can build a fence or plant a hedge a few inches or feet to your side of the official boundary although this has certain risks also – it may for instance establish a new de facto boundary, effectively ceding  part of your land to the neighbour. The hedge or fence will also be treated as a boundary fence in any case of dispute.

I currently have an irritating instance of the kind of Catch 22 situation that can create – our neighbours are council tenants and they accidentally burnt down a section of the fence during a barbecue. The boundary is the responsibility of their landlords, the council. But there was no fence there when we moved in, and the council weren’t willing to build one, so we built one at our own expense, just inside the boundary. So, confusingly, it’s our property but their responsibility.

It was annoying that the fence has been damaged, but never mind, we thought, we have insurance. So first we try the contents insurance – they won’t pay for it because they “don’t cover fences.” It doesn’t matter that the fence belongs to us and is not technically a boundary fence.

Our buildings insurance? Nope, because the boundary isn’t our responsibility. But never fear, the council have buildings insurance, so they can claim. Nope – because the council’s policy is “we don’t mend fences,” so they wo’t make a claim. They suggested we claim on their public liability insurance, which I suspect they knew in advance was a waste of time. The answer? “No, because you can’t prove the council was negligent.” Well, of course they weren’t, since they weren’t the ones who burnt it down.

Thus far it is a bit like going round a maze with no solution. A bit of a boring story, I know, but a good indication of the pitfalls that surround boundary hedges and fences.

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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Hedge Politics

Topiary Car, Lindisfarne

My mum sent me these pictures, as she knows I like this kind of thing… The topiary car is at the Oasis cafe on Holy Island, so can be visited only at low tide when you can either drive out on the causeway or take the old pilgrim’s route over the sands.


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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Topiary