29th June 2016…Cornish hedges

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By this time of year the lanes around St Keyne can only be described as lush, and they stand very high indeed. When our friends Julia and Allan visited we were discussing why the lanes in Cornwall and Devon are so deep. I looked up my ‘History of The English Countryside’ and have since found an excellent account in the Cornish Hedges site. However,  both of these otherwise masterly accounts are flawed in my opinion. They attribute most of the depth of West Country lanes to possible double-ditch construction by farmers on opposite sides of the lane creating boundaries, and to water erosion. Now we know from living in both that Devon and Cornwall are wet, but to suggest that a lot of the enormous depth of lanes is caused by water run-away seems to me a nonsense. Whenever I have examined a hedge by looking underneath the top-soil covering I more often than not find a carefully constructed stone wall, or hedge if you like. My theory is that these were constructed as boundaries, and that they were tall because there was an exceptional amount of stone waste material on the fields, for nearly all stone walls are made from material that was to hand. This is so in the Yorkshire Dales and everywhere else. The studies I mentioned seem to ignore the underlying construction of the hedgerows….20160629_144448.jpg

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