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An Inventory of ancient Hedges around Folkingham

(ancient indicates pre the era of 18th and 19th century enclosures)


Most Lincolnshire hedges date from this period but examples of much older hedges can be found.


Hedge dating is a technique described by Max Hooper (‘Hedges and Local History’ 1971) – count the number of species in a 30 metre section of hedge, e.g. 4 equals 4 centuries old to a degree of accuracy of plus or minus 50years.  No living part of the hedge is 400 years old. It means that a hedge has been growing there for this period of time.  Shrubs die and re-generate – no living part of the hedge will be older than 150 years old.  I had an interesting discussion withRay Wright who was sceptical about the supposed age of hedges.  He argued that his family had existed for 1000years, but nobody in it was that old.  This is a perfect analogy – the hedge is like an old family with species dying and re-generating over a long period of time.


Most of the hedges in the Folkingham area are relatively modern, but much older hedges can be found.   They are not usually straight (19th century hedges were planned by surveyors who favoured straight lines and uniform field sizes – usually 10 acres)


Hedges examined


The hedge to the west of the Parish field in the direction of Pickworth (OS Ref 065337).  Five species present: hawthorn, field maple, dog rose, oak, elderberry – field maple is normally only present in hedges older than four centuries (I have found no explanation of why this is so, or if, indeed, it can be verified).  This hedge also forms part of the boundary between NKDC and SKDC.  Such boundaries often pre-date modern political boundaries.


Walcot Lane – section of hedge opposite the entrance to the playing field – species present – hawthorn, field maple, dog rose, ash, hazel and elderberry.


Walcot Lane – north of the playing field.  Species present – hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, field maple, ash, dog rose, guelder rose.  The curves and bends in Walcot Lane almost certainly follow the boundaries of the old open-field furlongs.  A furlong was a collection of strips in the openfield usually curved (‘s’ shaped), because with a team of oxen it was difficult to plough in a straight line.  An arc made it easier to turn the team around at the headlands.


The footpath to Pickworth  (OS ref 058337) – hedge at right angles at the top of the hill – this hedge continues the boundary between North and South Kesteven.  Species present – hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple and dog rose.


Parish boundary between Pickworth and Folkingham.  OS ref – 052337 – the last field before Pickworth and marked by a footbridge through the hedge.  The unusual zig-zag boundary probably follows the line of old furlongs. Parish boundaries can be very old and sometimes pre-date the post Roman, Christian era.  In Suffolk a set of parish boundaries in the ‘Saints’ area near Halesworth was found to follow the boundaries of Roman estates.  The Church would quite happily take over existing estate boundaries to form parishes.  Species present – hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, dogrose, field maple, privet, guelder rose and ash.


Gettons Lane – green lane to the west of Walcot.  OS ref 045350.  These are amazingly rich hedgerows with obviously huge root systems  I counted the species in eleven 30 metre sections of hedge on both sides of the lane. In addition this is an area rich in orchids and other wild flowers, indicative of undisturbed calcareous land.  All sections have more than six species and some have as many as nine.Field maple was present in every section.  Species noted were – hawthorn, field maple, dog rose, privet, hazel, ash, oak, blackthorn, guelder rose and honeysuckle.  A trained botanist would probably find more.  There is still disagreement as to whether to include brambles.  We can only guess at the reasons for such an ancient hedge.  Written records prior to the period of Parliamentary Enclosures are very rare, if they ever existed, maps are even rarer – was it an estate boundary, a deer park boundary? – we have no way of knowing.


Hedges are ancient monuments worthy of protection.  Land owners were paid to take them up, now they are being paid to put them back.  They are living records of our landscape’s history and development and a hugely important haven for our wildlife.  It is reassuring to see an increasing number of new hedges in the landscape – thank you Mark Vigrass  of Louth, whoever  you are. It  is  not uncommon now to see the ancient skills associated with hedging  being revived.


References

Hedges and Local History – National Council of Social Service 1979 edition

www.hedgerowmobile.com – an excellent survey of up-to-date thinking about hedgerow dating