Survey finds most hedgerows will die if they are not actively managed

Monaghan has the best hedges while Offaly’s hedges are in the worst condition

Destruction of hedges and verges in Co Meath. Photograph: James McConnell

Destruction of hedges and verges in Co Meath. Photograph: James McConnell


Even though they can look nice and green, surveys of hedgerows in 15 counties and regions have found that the majority are in a poor condition and will decay and die if action is not taken to manage and protect them.

The findings have been highlighted in a campaign by several agencies to protect the 382,000km of hedgerows around the State.

Dr Declan Little, project manager at Woodlands of Ireland, said most hedges were planted between 200 and 300 years ago and they were reaching the end of their lifespan.

Some 27 per cent of hedges in Co Monaghan were deemed to be in a favourable condition – the highest percentage of any county surveyed on behalf of county councils. Offaly came out worst, with less than 5 per cent of hedges in a favourable condition.

Just over 6 per cent of hedges in Longford were deemed to be in a favourable condition while a quarter of hedges in Leitrim were in this condition. Criteria used to assess the condition of hedges include its structure, species composition and continuity.

“A lot of our hedgerows are just planted and left. We take it for granted that they are in the landscape and they will always be there but they won’t,” he said.

“They are not like forests. They are man-made structures and they must be actively managed, cut at the base and rejuvenated to grow again.”

Dr Little said most hedges looked fine to the untrained eye “but if you were to look at them and ask if they are in favourable condition, will they last for another 100 years, the answer might be ‘no’.”

His organisation, along with the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, the Heritage Council, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and Ecological Landscape Design Consultants have drawn up a package of measures aimed at preserving hedgerows. They also intend to build up a permanent record of them.