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'I’ve decided there is no hedging your bets on this' as Holkham Estate manager joins debate

Washed Up column, by Sarah Juggins, Tuesday, November 24, 2020

It’s really difficult to do right for doing wrong these days.

Talk about swapping a fossil fuel-powered car for an electric one and someone will pipe up about the amount of energy used to make an electric car in the first place.

The latest Washed Up column by Sarah Juggins
The latest Washed Up column by Sarah Juggins

Mention that you no longer eat avocados because of the huge areas of forest that is being uprooted to release land for their production and someone will take a side-swipe that you still use products containing palm oil.

The most recent occasion happened when I wore my poppy and was berated for glorifying the senseless deaths of millions of soldiers.

Any attempt at justification died on my lips as I recognised the fervent glow of fanaticism in the eyes of my protagonist.

But I did think I was quite safe when it came to hedge cutting.

For years I have understood that hedges need cutting every year to keep them in good health.

To protect the birdlife and insects that live within the habitat, the hedges are cut in the winter, after they have produced berries and before nesting activity begins.

I have even written about the importance of hedge cutting and was always ready to defend farmers from these ignorant people who bewailed the loss of bushy, overgrown hedgerows.

But it is me who is ignorant and who now has to change my ways. A fierce debate has broken out on social media about hedge cutting.

On the one hand are the ardent hedge-trimmers who argue that, although the hedge looks ravaged for a few weeks after the cut, eventually they look healthy and verdant with good, thick growth.

Arguing against that are people such as Holkham Estate’s conservation manager Jake Fiennes and farmer-author James Rebanks, both of who argue for at the very least a two-year gap between hedge cutting to allow the hedgerow to establish itself again.

As Fiennes puts it: ‘If I was to cut your limbs off, would you benefit?’

Put like that, I have put the hedge cutting gear back in the shed for at least the next two years.

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