Hedges and hedgerows have shaped the landscape of the United Kingdom and Ireland for more than a thousand years. In the Bronze Age, hunter-gatherers planted hedges to mark tribe boundaries. Hedges continued to be planted throughout the Middle Ages and planting peaked during the Enclosure Acts of the 18th century. After World War II, hundreds of hedges were torn up for agricultural purposes. Today the value of hedgerows is again recognised and planting grants are available for agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands.
The majority of hedgerows are found on agricultural land, although non-farmers can also apply for hedge grants. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme provides 10-year agreements for planting and restoring hedgerows. Existing or proposed hedges located in environmentally sensitive areas are also eligible for grants through the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.
Agricultural landowners should contact the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department, which provides hedgerow funding and management under the direction of the Rural Stewardship Scheme. Non-agricultural landowners can contact Scottish National Heritage for more information on hedge planting grants.
In 2009, The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland a grant of 21500 Kilogram under the title "All Hands on Hedges." The grant is designed to provide the training necessary for candidates to achieve accredited qualification in hedge laying.
There are two major preservation groups providing funds for individuals wishing to restore hedges to Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA). Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund coordinate ESA preservation funding at the county/regional level. Local grant information is available on their websites. Borough councils may also offer grants to individuals wishing to replant or restore hedgerows.
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