The ersatz hedge: how we’re debasing England’s rural landscape | Richard Mabey
Spindly rows of plastic-wrapped trees represent a misguided urge to control nature and risk polluting our countryside
Remember the English hedge? That meandering, bushy-bottomed muddle of blossom and blackberries, honeysuckle and wild rose, singing warblers and gothic trees half-buried in the greenery? More than 150,000 miles were grubbed out by farmers between the end of the second world war and the 1970s to make room for their big machines.
What have been called the countryside’s “locust years” ended, mercifully, and in the 80s there were a few halfhearted attempts at planting new, mixed hedges. But over the past decade, and especially the last two years, a new threat has emerged. Not destruction this time but debasement. We’ve entered the era of the ersatz hedge, a hybrid of plastic and bush that is being planted across lowland England, especially in arable areas, and which is managed as ruthlessly as a suburban privet border.