Tag Archives: Hedges

Autumn Leaf Patterns

It’s rather lovely in the woods on my cycle into work at the minute. A lot of the leaves have fallen and while they are a bit damp they are still mostly intact so you get a rather lovely Klimt-like mosaic effect on the floor of the woods. Also a lot of the roads have weird leaf patterns imprinted on them where leaves have fallen and almost but not quite disintegrated.

This is the time of year when evergreen hedges make a big difference in the gardens I cycle past. While the hawthorn and forsythia hedges start to look gnarled and desolate, the box and cypress ones stay in pretty good shape, while beech and hornbeam at least hang on to their leaves, even if they have turned an autumnal shade of brown.

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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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Filed under Notable Hedges, Topiary

Greek hedges and trees

I was recently in Kefalonia for a week’s holiday. Inevitably a few of my holiday pictures ended up being of hedges and trees, so here are a few thoughts, based on entirely unscientific observations of the immediate area I was staying in (near Argostoli).

The range of trees in Greece is pretty spectacular, with lots of the obvious species like lemon, fig and olive: here’s one of each of those.

(There were plenty of big fig trees, but this one amused me because it was just growing in a crack in the pavement).

When it comes to hedges. the Greek climate mostly doesn’t encourage a dense British-style hedge, so you get two main types of hedge. Firstly you get slightly flimsy flowering hedges like these ones:

This shrub is quite common in the flimsy style of hedge (not sure what it is called)

Secondly you get denser, low hedges, more like an ornamental border. For instance this one at the airport, complete with “Keep of the grass” sign (sic).

And this one, which amuses me because of the symmetry of the hedges containing a garden with nothing in it. (I suspect the British owners of these apartments can be blamed for the slightly neurotic design of this):

Finally, there were plenty of trees I couldn’t identify. I’m not sure whether this triffid is technically a tree or not, but it is definitely pretty weird and a bit scary. It was growing almost horizontally out of the roadside bank, which was also full of strange little cacti:

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Filed under Everyday Hedges, Trees

Hedges, house price bubbles and rioting kids

Hedge Britannia is partly about the way that hedges represent the division of property, land and wealth in society.

Like most people I’m disgusted by the rioting and firstly want the police, parents and politicians to get a grip on the situation. But when the time comes to reflect on the root causes, it’s worth thinking about the role house prices have played in our current economic mess.

Banks lending excessively against property drove a huge boom in house prices and rent. At the same time, the government bill for benefits rocketed. But the largest part of the increase was in the housing benefit bill.

This means that the real beneficiaries of the increase in benefits payments weren’t the claimants themselves, but the banks (via interest) and the landlords (who got their mortgages paid).  It also increased the severity of the poverty gap – rents in London and many other cities have reached ludicrous levels, largely because of the bubble, and it is now harder than ever for someone on housing benefit to find a job which will pay those rents.

So the housing bubble represented a wealth transfer from the many to the few. But now it has imploded, this process has been cemented because, rather than let house prices collapse (which would bankrupt the banks and hurt property owners), the government and Bank of England are trying to inflate the debt away via near-zero rates. It is the stated policy of the BOE to allow inflation to continue at high levels so long as real wage levels don’t rise. In other words, our currency is being debased, and we are all being impoverished to bail out the bankers and those who borrowed heavily against property.

At the same time, the idea has taken hold that the national debt should be blamed on benefits claimants rather than the bankers. Many of the poorest kids have already lost EMA, which gave them £35 a week or so spending money. Their families are being targeted by housing benefit caps (while the landlords are not threatened with rent controls, which would be a far more direct way to limit the flow of money from taxpayers to banks and landlords via housing benefit). And in addition, real wage levels are falling as prices increase faster than wages or benefits, so everyone is worse off, whether on the dole, minimum wage or whatever.

In a dimwitted, criminalised way, going out robbing and rioting is partly a response to these pressures and the perception that the system is rigged against the poorest.

So maybe we should spare a thought for those kids from poor areas who aren’t rioting. They are the ones who are being made ever poorer to save the wealthiest in society. They are also the ones who tend to be the victims of knife crime and gang culture, and who get bullied by the criminal minority on a daily basis. And now their communities are being worst hit by the looting and arson.

The fact that the criminal minority have been behaving like complete morons shouldn’t allow us to forget that there are others out there who have a genuine right to be angry. And those in the media, political class and elsewhere who believed HOUSE PRICES UP and BANK LENDING RISES are always good news stories should remember that their cheerleading for the bankers’ debt bubble helped create this situation.

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The Battle of the Bocage

The hedgerows of Normandy were serious barriers to Allied troops following the D-Day landings in 1944 . In the Cotentin area, there was intense German resistance in difficult terrain of small fields and orchards. This conflict became known as the “hedgerows war” or the “battle of the bocage” (the French name for hedgerow).

The ancient hedgerows were up to five metres high, having been neglected during the years of occupation. Dense barriers of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and brambles were interspersed with apple and pear trees, grown for calvados, pommel and local ciders. These created perfect defensive fortifications. Ground troops could not see through the bocage to see if a tank or self-propelled gun was waiting for them, and the Germans cut small holes in order to see attackers coming and set up ambushes.

Tanks were unable to penetrate the dense hedgerows – driving into one was reportedly like driving a car into a brick wall. American troops experimented with flamethrowers and commandos with explosive devices, both with limited success. Eventually they improvised cutting attachments by fixing blades to their tank wheels in order to slash through the bocage and head on to the easier terrain beyond.

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Filed under Hedgelaying, Historical Hedges

The Hedge People

I wrote recently about the use of hedge- as a derogatory prefix, as for instance in the adjective “hedge-born” which means “of low birth” or “born under a hedge”.

However there is an alternative usage of “hedge-” which I think should be encouraged, in which it simply means “common” as in “the common people.” Of course common can itself be a snobbish insult (when used by someone who looks down on the common people). But the common people can simply mean “the ordinary people.” So for instance in the Richard Jefferies quote below “hedge language” is just the everyday dialect and slang spoken by the ordinary rural folk or, as they might be called, “the hedge people.”

The boys and girls play in the ditches till they go to school, and they play in the hedges and ditches every hour they can get out of school, and the moment their time is up they go to work among the hedges and ditches, and though they may have had to read standard authors at school, no sooner do they get among the furrows than they talk hedge and ditch language.

Richard Jefferies

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Filed under Historical Hedges, Rural Britain, The Hedge Philosopher

Hedge- as a prefix

From the sixteenth century onwards, when prefixed to any word, “hedge” referred to something vile, or of the lowest class – from the contemptuous usage of “plying one’s trade under a hedge”. So there were hedge-doctors, hedge-lawyers, and even hedge-wenches.In Ireland, the Gaelic language and catholic culture were preserved in the period of the Penal Laws by hedge-schools, at which hedge-priests taught their pupils in secrecy behind the cover of the hedgerows.

This use of “hedge-” is nicely caught in a quote from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

“…beneath Cornwall, beyond and beneath this whole realm of England, beneath the sodden marches of Wales and the rough territory of the Sots border, there is another landscape… Who will swear the hobs and boggarts who live in the hedges and in hollow trees and the wild men who hide in the woods?”

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Filed under Hedge Politics, Historical Hedges, The Hedge Philosopher