Management Advice

Keeping hedges healthy

All hedges require management if they are to survive a long time. Healthy, well-structured (thick and bushy) hedges are much better for wildlife and most ecosystem services than ones in poor condition. A general introduction to hedge management (excepting banks) is given in the Hedgelink DVD A cut above the rest (available from Natural England, with clips online).

Species-rich Devon hedge 1, Marshford Farm, 5 November 2008, Rob Wolton

Species-rich Devon hedge 1, Marshford Farm, 5 November 2008, Rob Wolton

Banks erode over time, and shrubs and trees mature or try to. To keep a hedge healthy, it must be taken through a management cycle. This starts with the hedge either being freshly planted or rejuvenated by laying (steeping) or coppicing. The hedge may then be trimmed at appropriate intervals but inevitably it will eventually start to become gappy. At this stage it should be allowed to grow up, ready for rejuvenation, completing the management cycle. The length of this cycle will vary considerably according to species and exposure, but may on average be about 40 years. Hedges that are allowed to become very gappy or to develop into lines of trees will require restoration. See Devon hedges and modern farming for further information on this, and a management cycle diagram. Further information can be found in the Hedgelink leaflet The hedgerow management cycle.

Relict ash hedge, Ashbury, 3 Feb 07

Relict ash hedge, Ashbury, 3 Feb 07

Every farm, or landscape unit of about 50 ha, should aim to have hedges at a range of different heights, from those are that are being maintained through regular trimming to those that are ready for laying or coppicing. A few left to develop into lines of trees will add value for wildlife and landscape. Structural variety and good condition are the vital components of a healthy hedge network. The Complete hedge good management guide gives 12 top management principles for hedge management. Leaflets on how to manage hedges for farmland birds, bats, bumblebees, dead wood insects, ditch invertebrates, grass snakes, hairstreak butterflies and hedgehogs can be found here.

Marking up a farm plan to show which hedges should be layed or coppiced over the next few years, which need restoration, and which should be trimmed regularly, and on what rotation, can be a very helpful measure to ensure a healthy, resilient, farm hedge network.

There are several separate sections giving further specific management advice. You can access these sections through the links below or through the drop down menu under the management advice menu item at the top of our website.

Bank Management

Garden Hedges

Hedgerow Trees

Laying and Coppicing

Moving Hedges

New Hedges

Pipelines & Hedges

Roadside Hedges

Trimming (cutting)

Drawing of knuckly hedge, Heather Harley, May 2014

Drawing of knuckly hedge, Heather Harley, May 2014