by Julia Webb-Harvey

Save the green highway!
A crisis at the edges –
my pledge for a hedge


Hero Hedgerows

The hedgerow, unsung hero of nature’s space. 
The key worker who has fallen from grace – 
a landscape rooted in the folds of time,
miles more added to hold a line

A line that kept the commoner out.

In came small creatures that roamed 
and made themselves a home. 
A home, a nest, a feast. 
A feast of nectar, haws, and hips. 
Hip no more, hedges ripped out.
Out for financial incentive –
fields framed by fences,
different defences.

Wildlife has no use for a taninised post. 

Hedge your bets on nature’s largest reserve. 
Reserve the soil at the edges – 
edges where hedges capture carbon.
Carbon footprint accelerates 
along a supercharged highway. 
Accelerate the plan.
Your name for an uprising of hedges. 
Rows of names for the humble hedge. 

Bush-up! 

Raise an army of hero hedges. 
Three metres for each one of us. 
Us, each one of us, looking at our edges. 
Edges that could be hedges. 
Disorder your border. 
Borders of hawthorn, blackthorn, bramble, 
honeysuckle and dogrose tangled.
Rows of tangled, disordered borders. 
Borders humming with life. 

Take care of your hedge.
Trim don’t strim. 
Lessen the power –  
tool-down for the flowers
to grow on second-year wood. 
Wood that needs an inch 
or two more than before. 
Before was order, 
now allow disorder. 

Hedge your edge. 
No edge?
Then pledge a hedge.

My pledge takes the form of a spoken word poem. This form is used to convey important messages or statements to society. It lends itself to activism, and as the hedgerow has a cultural-political background, the expression of this pledge as a particular poem felt the right one to take.

It is true that the planting of hedgerows rapidly accelerated as a result of Enclosure, but half our hedgerows are classed as ancient. Sadly, their reduction was also politically driven. Grants were issued to farmers to make their fields bigger, with the hedgerow the collateral damage. 

The Wildlife Trusts encourage the development of hedgerow as a wildlife habitat, with individual trusts active in different ways – like Surrey Wildlife Trust on Hedgerow Heritage.  Other conservation organisations are championing positive action too, as referred to in the poem. The #40by50 pledge petition is by CPRE and The Tree Council is behind the Pledge a Hedge campaign.


Read Beverley Moore’s 26 Habitats hedgerows centena and essay.

Read Francesca Baker’s 26 Habitats hedgerows centena and essay.

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