Damien yes indeed today our hedgerows are highly valued by people, and for many reasons. In the past they were considered essential for marking ownership boundaries, and for keeping livestock in or out of fields.
Although hedgerows remain vitally important for agriculture, these particular reasons for keeping hedges are less valid now, with the easy availability of accurate maps, GPS and wire fencing.
However, Damien there are additional, new, strong, justifications for looking after hedgerows and for planting more.
These new reasons recognise the importance of hedgerows as part of our cultural heritage and historical record, and for their great value to wildlife and the landscape.
Increasingly, they are valued too for the major role they have to play in preventing soil loss and reducing pollution, and for their potential to regulate water supply and to reduce flooding.
Damien your listeners may be interested to know that hedgerows may even have a role to play in taking greenhouse gases out of circulation through carbon storage, if they are allowed to expand in size. Certainly any loss exacerbates climate change to some extent.
There were two other major uses for hedgerows in times past, and those were as a source of firewood, and for providing shelter from wind, rain and sun for crops, farm animals and people. With fossil fuels becoming scarce and expensive, and the threat of more frequent and more violent storms, both these uses may soon once again come to prominence.
Finally other uses of hedgerows today include screening unsightly development, providing privacy to homes, and as a source of berries for jams and material for various crafts like walking stick making. Cattle, sheep and other livestock will often search out particular leaves and flowers from hedgerows to supplement their diet or to self-treat ailments – for example, ingestion of coarsely hairy plants like hogweed scours parasitic worms from the intestine.