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Technical note Open Access

Productive hedges: Guidance on bringing Britain's hedges back into the farm business

Westaway; Sally; Jo Smith

Owing their existence to agriculture, hedgerows have been shaped by centuries of human activity. However, the last century has seen a large decline in their presence and quality due to the loss of a direct economic value, agricultural intensification, and the abandonment of traditional management practices such as coppicing and hedgelaying. As a valuable resource within our rural landscapes, hedges need to be managed in a way which is sustainable, both economically and ecologically, and allows them to continue being healthy and vigorous so they persist for generations to come. The coppicing of hedges for woodfuel or other products has the potential to not only reduce the cost of managing hedges but to provide local communities with a renewable, low cost energy source whilst supporting wildlife and improving the health of hedges. Although markets are in the early stages of development, those able to supply themselves with woodfuel from hedges have an opportunity to make significant savings on the cost of energy. It's time to make the most of this under-utilised resource and bring our hedges back into the farm business.
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