For anyone who wants a barrier between themselves and their neighbours, the ultimate aspirational hedge must the one at Meikleour in Scotland. Running alongside the A93 between Perth and Blairgowrie, this is an extraordinary solid wall of beech trees. The hedge, for a long time officially the highest in the world*, is over 100 feet high at its tallest point and a third of a mile long.
It was planted in 1745 by Robert Murray Nairne. This was the year of the Jacobite Rising, and Nairne and many of the men who worked with him and helped to plant the hedge went on to fight for the Jacobites in the Battle of Culloden in the following year.
The battle and its aftermath were grim for the Jacobites, who were mostly Highland Scots supporting the House of Stuart’s claim to the throne. Alongside the French they were fighting against English and Scottish troops under the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II (the Hanover king).
The duke became known as “Butcher” Cumberland – he was the one who gave the orders to take “no quarter.” Hundreds of wounded soldiers were shot lying on the ground, while others were taken prisoner, then either burnt alive in pits of fire or shot in cold blood.
So one can hardly begin to fathom the deep sorrow of Nairne’s wife, Jean Mercer of Meikleour. She let the newly planted beech hedge grow up to heaven in memoriam of her lost husband and friends. And to this day it has remained there as a monument to her grief.
*Rather gallingly, the tallest hedge in Britain is now the double row of Leylandii at the National Pinetum in Bedgbury, Kent, which at the time of writing is 130 feet tall. But I’m tempted to say that since that is Leylandii it doesn’t really count.