Hedges and Hedgerows

Hedges and Hedgerows

While adding assets to the ‘Gates, Walls and Fences’ layer it became evident that in a largely rural parish hedges were analogous to gates, walls and fences. They share the same fundamental characteristics of separating areas of land or delineating boundaries and require maintenance on a regular basis. In a manner similar to gates, walls and fences they also have a financial value such that, in the event of loss or damage to a hedge, the asset register will need to record a value for insurance purposes in the event that repair or replacement is needed.

The guys at Parish Online (PO) responded promptly to my original request to add hedges to the gates, walls and fences layer but the ‘hedge’ asset type has recently been moved from there to its own layer of ‘Hedgerows’. My understanding of the reasoning for this was to enable hedgerows to be plotted nationally as part of a climate / biodiversity and wildlife corridor scheme. I fully understand the logic and need for this data from an ecological perspective but one of the principal features of PO, and supported by BHIB on this basis, is that PO provides an asset register for insurance purposes.

I would suggest that the only relationship between a hedge acting in its role as a gate, wall or fence and a hedge in its role as a contributor to bio-diversity is the name. From an ecological perspective I am of course interested in the height and width of a hedge, its age and also its components (see the website for Hedgelink for more information on this, especially their very helpful pages on hedgerow components. However as a person attempting to maintain our parish council’s asset register I am also interested in a hedge's value, how often it needs inspection, when it was last cut, etc. etc. On this latter point I draw attention to the fact that hedges frequently have three (or more) aspects to maintenance in that the outside, the inside and the top may all have different maintainers depending on where the hedge is situated and the land ownership on either side of the hedge. See also the footnote on ditches.

The ability to record hedges in PO is very important but it appears to me that there are two very different reasons why we need such information recorded and that the hedge as a parish council owned asset is very different to the hedge as an ecological component and that they probably need to be recorded separately. Indeed the hedge as an asset is a simple line in PO whereas a hedge as a contributor to bio-diversity and wildlife corridors would probably need to be a polygon.

This post is not intended to challenge the good work done by the folks at PO but it is hoped to stimulate a forum discussion on this topic that may help inform PO of how to resolve this apparent dichotomy.

Footnote: Ditches - I also want to discuss ditches, especially ditches associated with hedges, but I’ll do that in a separate post !