hedgerow and moor

Cornish hedges, why are they so special?

Cornish Hedges

You might have seen our new brand Hedgerow & Moor on the website. Why did we choose to name our brand after hedgerows?

This brand has been a real personal project for me and it will be a work in progress as I learn more about and get inspired by the amazing plants that grow around us amongst the hedgerows and on the sprawling Cornish moors.

What is special about Cornish hedges and why are they so magical?

A Cornish hedge on early summer
A Cornish hedge in early summer

For me, April is the best month to be in Cornwall, as this is the time that the hedgerows really start to come to life. There are splashes of colour everywhere, with yellow primroses, dashes of white stitchwort, the bright pink of red campion and of course, the iconic shape of spring bluebells dancing in the spring sunshine.  

It is the height of some of the hedgerows that is instantly noticeable, the reason for this is that many of them are extremely old, with some recorded as being approximately 4000 years old, making them some of the earliest man-made structures in the country!

These ancient structures are an ecological masterpiece, housing hundreds of species of plants, insects and mammals and creating a safe-haven for a variety of different nesting birds.

These hedges often contain wildlife that has reduced in other areas, and often contain species that are characteristic of flower-meadows, woodlands, scrub, field margins, heathland, wetland, rocky outcrops, and sea cliffs.

Hedgerow and Moor cornish hedge with blackthorn blossom
Blackthorn blossom on the top of a Cornish hedge. 

An estimated ten thousand species of insects can be supported by the flowers, plants, and diverse habitat of Cornwall’s hedges. This brings mammals, birds and reptiles to forage and to seek shelter, make their homes and nests in the lush greenery and cracks and crevices of the stone walls.

These hedges still have an important role to play in modern farming, just as they did 4000 years ago. The Cornish website Cornish Hedges has this to say about their importance; “Many farming families care for their hedges as heirlooms handed down the generations, and still of direct use to the farmer. They provide essential shelter from the Atlantic weather for livestock and field crops, and enable the farmer's herd to graze safely. The hedge growth supplies a source of trace elements and herbs necessary to the health of grazing animals. The hedgebanks prevent erosion of valuable topsoil and leaching of plant nutrients from field crops. They are the source of hedgerow timber, and they harbour a host of beneficial insects which prey on crop pests and attract birds and mammals to control aphids and rodents”.

An ancient Cornish stone hedge
An ancient Cornish hedge

Unfortunately, the 30,000 miles of Cornish hedges are under threat. 1995 and 2005, in the decade when hedgerows across Britain gained this greater protection, Cornwall lost almost 100 miles of Cornish hedges.

One of the factors affecting the preservation of these hedges, is that it is extremely costly to rebuild and repair when they become damaged. According to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, it costs about £100 a metre to build a Cornish hedge, so at this price, it would cost more than £16million to rebuild the 100 miles of Cornish hedges that were lost over a decade.

With this in mind, it will be part of the Hedgerow & Moor journey to learn more about how we as a business can work towards helping to preserve these magical and ecologically vital parts of the Cornish landscape.

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