There was a comical case of hedgebreaking in the seventeenth century when Peter the Great stayed in the diarist John Evelyn’s house in Deptford. He was there to study shipbuilding on the adjacent Thames dockyards, but was prone to throwing parties back at the house. Evelyn, a devoted gardener, was especially proud of his holly hedges and was appalled to discover that the Tsar had been playing drunken games in which a servant pushed him in a wheelbarrow through not only the flowerbeds, but also the hedges.
Happily the hedges recovered from any damage inflicted – soon afterwards Evelyn wrote:
Is there under heaven a more glorious and refreshing object of the kind, than an impregnable Hedge a hundred and sixty feet in length, and seven feet high, and five in diameter, which I can shew in my poor Gardens at any time of the year, glittering with its armed and vernish’d leaves? The taller Standards at orderly distances blushing with their natural Corall. It mocks at the rudest assaults of the Weather, Beasts, and Hedgebreakers.
(Quoted from Hedge Britannia).
Here’s a good example of how vigilance and knowing the regulations can help to protect your local hedgerows – over seven miles of hedgerows saved near to Shrewsbury because enough people bothered to make their objections known.
Some odd search engine terms bring people to this blog – this question is one of today’s.
I’m not a lawyer, so take that as a legal disclaimer for the following – but my answer would be that the boundary of a property is not materially affected by hedges – a hedge need not mark an exact boundary in any case (this is part of the judge’s definition of a hedge in the landmark case Stanton vs Jones). Boundaries are marked fairly clearly on the deeds to a house.
There are situations in which the shifting of a boundary marker such as a fence or wall might in the long run affect the exact location of a boundary if a judge concluded that long usage had established a new boundary but the law is very much geared to respecting the original boundary, to the point that it is possible to get a judgment that incorrectly positioned walls and fences must be demolished. But the growth of a hedge is different to moving a wall or fence because it is a natural process and doesn’t actually shift the location of the hedge to any specific degree (assuming it is growing out in both directions). Also, unlike a fence or wall, you have an immediate remedy open to you if your neighbour’s fence is expanding – you can trim overhanging growth on your side of the hedge (though not to cut the hedge down from the top) – you have the right to trim it back to your property line if you can do
it without killing the plant.
Note that there is a minor legal quirk here – technically the hedge trimmings belong to the neighbour and should be offered back to them before being disposed of. It’s highly unlikely they would want them, but it never does any harm to talk about these things before taking action to avoid any conflict.
This is Steve Wheen’s blog, with some nice pictures of the miniature gardens he has planted in potholes.
Scotland is finally bringing in some legislation on high hedges – on the whole this is a good thing. The legislation in England and Wales hasn’t been perfect – a lot of people are put off by the charges, which vary wildly around the country. Far less people have used the legislation that expected, partly because the charges are a deterrent. And there are problems with “staging” where a very tall hedge can’t be cut down to size if it will kill it.
However the bill has established a situation where it is legally recognised that hedges can be detrimental to neighbour’s “quiet enjoyment of their homes” and this has led to quite a few cases being settled amicably. So overall, it is a positive thing, even if it doesn’t always work smoothly.
There’s no such thing as a “bad hedge” but there are some pretty irresponsible hedge-owners out there. And there are also people who didn’t realise how high their leylandii would grow and now can’t afford to get them trimmed by tree surgeons. It’s a complicated situation, but I think the Scottish parliament, following the campaign by ScotHedge and others, is probably doing the right thing.
I was on Five Live earlier talking to Peter Allen about this issue, which was fun, although mostly we seemed to end up talking about whether copper beech or hawthorn is the better hedge and similar stuff.
I’m finding the whole kerfuffle about the Olympics increasingly weird. For me as a Londoner it is basically a lot of inconvenience but I can accept that it is something some people are excited about and I live with that. I find it harder to accept the corporate takeover of an entire city, what with Olympic lanes, exclusive rights to sell fries on the Olympic site, fascistic control of logos and so on – all that seems very dystopian to me and expressive of the general state of the world in which the 1% are getting away with murder (metaphorically).
The weird thing is how many people have let themselves get swept into a groupthink mood of excitement and fervour about this and the way that the media is completely ignoring events elsewhere in the world. Someone winning a canoe race really isn’t more important that the Eurozone crisis or Syria or the UN in turmoil. And it’s not just the people you would expect to be swept up in this kind of thing (the easily enthused Blue Peter types) – even reliably curmudgeonly media commentators like Charlie Brooker or Petrie Hosken seem to have gone from being sceptical in advance to being converts overnight – maybe it’s because there is nothing else to talk about and their editors don’t want “I hate the Olympics” pieces, but it’s still disappointing.
It all feels a bit like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or the Stepford Wives, where everyone starts behaving the same way – or more pertinently, the last time I saw the British public and media behave like this was possibly when Diana died – then it was de rigueur to be publicly sorrowful and the TV stations weren’t allowed to show anything that might seem frivolous. Now instead of a hysterical mood of mourning, we have a hysterical frenzy of excitement – I’m sure I’m not the only one finding it alienating and peculiar, but I will certainly be glad when it is all over.
I’ve always been fond of Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, so it’s interesting to see a group of people acting on the same lines today, when the land is even more tightly controlled than it was in the 17th century.
As a political issue I think the increasingly restricted and centralised ownership of land and property is only going to become more significant over the next decade or so. A lot of the issues of wealth and “poverty” are rooted in the fact that the “common people” don’t have any access to natural resources and haven’t had for a long time, while credit, money creation and usury have been used as means to inflate the price of land and property and thus to raise the price of rents and home ownership for ordinary people.
The net result is an ongoing transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% – and currently the 1% also have the gall to blame and punish the 99% for the mistakes made by society’s richest (bankers and landowners) during the global credit bubble. The current economic plan seems to be firstly to make the ordinary people pay for the mistakes of the bankers and secondly to reinflate the bubble in order to keep on creaming off wealth for the richest in society.
Surely there must come a point where we say we have had enough of being conned. So good luck to the new Diggers. They’ll need it.