A couple of things have shocked us in recent months.
First shock was way back in February when we had snow here and decided to take a walk through the fields surrounding the house. It was certainly at least 2 years since I had last gone climbing gates and fences up the back of the house. I know some might say it is trespassing going for a walk along the neighbours hedgerows…. but boy, oh boy, do they have a healthy growth of sloes up there!
What struck us as we walked along in the snow though was that hedge, after hedgerow, was gone. Two years ago we would have had to wend our way backwards and forwards across fields to find the gaps in the hedges where we knew we could get through.
Those hedgerows are now all gone. Gone. Disappeared.
Literally miles of hedgerows gone.
I was under the impression that hedgerows were protected. I’ve done some research in the past few weeks and from what I can find out they are.
The Department of Agriculture :
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine advise that, under Section 37 of the Forestry Act, 1946, it is illegal to uproot any tree over ten years old or to cut down any tree of any age (including trees which form part of a hedgerow), unless a Felling Notice has been lodged at the Garda Station nearest to the trees at least 21 days before felling commences.
I can honestly say I know very very little about the ‘REPS’ schemes, but I understood that if you removed hedges you would not get this payment?
Another Department of Agriculture document states:
While hedgerows are an important visual feature in the landscape and form part of the historical and archaeological heritage of the country, they also serve a number of very important functions at farm level such as:
̧ Stock proof boundaries particularly important for animal disease control;
̧ Shelter and shade for farm animals and shelter for crops from possible winddamage;
̧ Physical barrier to restrict soil and water movement thus reducing soil erosionand protecting water quality.
̧ Providing habitats for wild life in circumstances where the proportion ofnatural woodland in the country is low;
̧ Nature corridors to allow the free movement of wildlife.
These landscape features are now protected under the requirements of Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC). This means that in general they cannot be removed. Hedgerows must also be maintained and not allowed to become invasive thereby reducing the utilisable area of the field and consequently impacting on the area eligible for the single payment.
You would think it was all very clear. The sentence in this that would bother me is “this means that in general they cannot be removed“. Does this give the farmer ‘wriggle’ room? Allow him to destroy the hedges?
On a side note, has anyone else noticed poor animals in fields without a single bit of protection? Not a tree or hedge for them to shelter under.
The second shock we had in the past month has been that all this land about us is now for sale. Oh, how we wish we could afford 85 acres of prime agricultural land in North Tipperary.
In a conversation with a neighbour, who is an organic farmer, we were talking about how this entire 85 acres has just one hedgerow left in it, no other hedges, no fencing, no water, no electricity…. his reply….. that is the way farmers (including himself) want the land now. It is easier to move the big machines around!!!
Unfortunately the cloud completely blocks out the area around our house…. but you can see the central hedgerow that has been left… and the lines where the old hedges used to be. Very sad!
It is simple so folks….. farmers are thinking about how to move big machines around their land.
They are not thinking about biodiversity, hedgerows, wild food – we will miss the haws, sloes and blackberries – and what about the bees, birds and other wildlife that live in the hedgerows? These hedgerows have taken decades to develop and get established. These particular hedgerows were over 1,000 years old. They are now gone forever.
And as I press ‘publish’ I can see another neighbouring farmer destroying more hedgerows down the hill.
How can this be stopped? Can it be stopped?