Letter: Hedges older than history

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article on hedges (29 August) lends support to what the historian Oliver Rackham has called "the Enclosure-Act Myth, the notion that the countryside is not merely an artefact, but a very recent one". As he says in the preface to The History of the Countryside, "This notion is quite prevalent even among Ministers of Agriculture, and exerts its defeatist influence against the conservation of the landscape."

Certainly the enclosure of open fields and commons resulted in many new hedges being planted, especially between about 1770 and 1830; but hedges, and very old hedges, were a typical feature long before then. Not only were many parts of the country never subject to the open-field system of farming, but those that were had a significant proportion of old enclosure, as well as hedges around parish boundaries, woods etc. The hedge, as a feature of the British countryside, probably goes back to the prehistoric beginnings of agriculture.


Market Rasen, Lincolnshire