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Several varieties of tree, including this ash, field maple, elm, crab apple and oak have been found laid and trimmed as hedges. In the last forty years much of the ash has been allowed to grow to trees rising from laid trunks.
Photo: Peter Allen

A survey of some of Bingham’s hedgerows was carried out in September and October 1999 on behalf of the Bingham Town Council by D.L.Davidson, G.Davidson, E.Hobson, P.H.Thompson and W.Thompson. The purpose of the survey was to determine the age and ecological diversity of the hedgerows in an area to the north and east of Bingham, which was targeted for housing development. Their report has been lodged with the Town Council and can be obtained from there.

In that survey fourteen hedges were surveyed. The BHTA continued with the survey, starting in September 2001 and finishing in September 2003. All field boundary hedges in the parish have now been surveyed and some remnant hedges in the town have also been looked at. The hedges surveyed in the Town Council exercise have been re-examined to ensure consistency. Over 250 hedges have now been examined.

Nearly all the field boundary hedges are cut every year soon after harvest. The majority are kept to a height of about 1.5 to 1.75 metres. A few have been left to grow and are cut only on one side or not at all. Some of the roadside hedges are cut on the field side only. In some hedges, the ground is mown right up to the base of the shrubs. There are many gaps in the hedges - some of the larger ones are where the hedges caught fire in the days when straw burning was allowed. No hedges in the parish have been laid in recent years, but in most of them there is evidence that they were laid in the past. Not only hawthorn was laid, but so were ash, crab apple and most of the other trees, including oak in one or two places

The modern scientific study of hedges began with the publication of the book Hedges, by E. Pollard, M.D. Hooper and N.M. Moore (Collins, London, 1974). A way of estimating the age of hedges, commonly known as Hooper’s method, was presented in this book. It required counting the number of different species of tree and shrub in several 30m stretches of hedges. This method was applied in this survey and all the data collected put into a database.

There are three methods of gaining access to the data and carrying out database searches. You can do it by area, by species or go directly into the database.

To enter the database and conduct your own search, click here.

Dating the hedges

Using Hooper’s method, excluding the mixed hedges planted in the last twenty years, the averages in Bingham vary from 1 to 6.4. Twenty-four hedges classified as mixed have an average of four or over. Most of these are in two areas in the north-west and north-east of the parish, where documentary evidence suggests there may have been enclosure in Elizabethan times. In the hedges that enclosed the Brackendale, South and Starnhill Medieval open fields south of the A52 the species averages are nearly all lower than 4 and the proportion of hawthorn is almost always high. This area was likely to have been enclosed in one planned scheme in 1680-90 or a little later. It seems that the Earl of Chesterfield did not deliberately plant mixed hedges when he enclosed the Medieval fields, though they may have planted trees for timber and shade along with the hawthorn.

Taking this into account only 43% of the surviving hedges have species averages that give an age that is consistent with a documented age of 325 years or greater. There are some hedges with an average just over one that are known to have been there since at least 1832. Hooper’s method seems to confirm that the mixed hedges are most likely to be Elizabethan in origin and that the dominantly hawthorn hedges are almost certainly part of the 1680-90 enclosure period, but it does not allow any further refinement in the analysis of the ages of the hedges.

For information on the theory and method of dating hedges by counting the different species in 30m stretches of hedge and an analysis of the results for Bingham go to:

How to date hedges

Ecological diversity

There is a surprisingly large number of shrub and tree species in Bingham’s hedges. The full list of species that have been cut to make a hedge includes hawthorn, elder, blackthorn, rose, field maple, wild privet, dogwood, crab apple, small-leaved elm, wych elm, hazel, purging buckthorn, spindle, damson, plum, guelder rose, wayfaring tree, ash, oak and sycamore. Other plants, like bramble, ivy, bryony and honeysuckle have not been recorded in this survey.


Nowhere in Bingham is the wayfaring tree growing wild in hedges, but it has been planted along the A52 in 1987 and on Brocker Farm it has been used in new hedges.
Photo: Peter Allen

Documentary evidence for the age of Bingham’s hedges

Documentary evidence of the age of hedges in the parish is sparse. In The Domesday of Inclosures for Nottinghamshire commissioned in 1517 for Henry VIII the largest area of enclosure in Nottinghamshire was in the Bingham wapentake, but none if it was in the Bingham parish. Things had changed by 1586 when a survey of Bingham carried out by Mr Robert Johnson on behalf of Brian Stapleton, who owned Bingham at that time, showed many closes, which were fields enclosed by a hedge or fence. There is no map of this survey, which is written in Latin, but one has been constructed during the History of Settlement of Bingham Parish project and the closes are shown on it. Evidence of earlier, piecemeal enclosure has been forthcoming from studying the distribution of finds collected during field walking, while the same body of evidence has been used to identify enclosures dating from the 17th century. During the eighteenth century there were no Parliamentary Enclosure Acts for Bingham, but by 1776 the whole of the Earl of Chesterfield’s land in the parish was enclosed, as evidenced by a set of maps of the estate, which are part of his tenancy agreements. There were some large holdings in private hands at that time, but there is no information about them. However, there is circumstantial evidence in John Throsby’s History of Nottinghamshire, published in 1797 that enclosure of the whole parish actually took place around 1680-90. However, the areas of common grazing in the north of the parish seemed to have been enclosed later, possibly late in the 18th century.

Nearly all the hedges present today are on the 1776 maps. Some rationalisation took place before the survey carried out in 1832 by Sanderson for his map of 1835, which is the first map of the whole parish. A few hedges were added and some removed and this process continued until 1900. There then came a period of stability lasting until the middle of the twentieth century, when there was wholesale removal of hedges from some parts of the parish. New hedges have been planted along new roads since 1968, but very few new ones have appeared anywhere else.

For a full account of the history of enclosure in Bingham and surrounding parishes got to: Bingham’s Open Fields and Enclosure

Classification of Bingham’s hedges

The classification of the hedges used in the database and on the map reflects both the species diversity and age based on documentary evidence. The different classes are as follows:
Post-1950 These are road-scheme hedges and farm hedges reported as being relatively recent or they are absent on early maps.

1840 – 1900 Hedges not shown on the Tithe map, but are present on later editions of the OS maps of the parish.

Pre-1840 These are present on the Tithe map, but outside the Chesterfield estate. Some may also be shown on the Sanderson map, but there is no evidence for or against an earlier age.

1776 –1840 This includes hedges in the Chesterfield estate that were not on the 1776 maps, but appeared on the Tithe map of 1840.

Pre-1776 These are the largely hawthorn-dominant hedges of the 1680-90 enclosure. All are present on the 1776 tenancy agreement maps.

Pre-1776 (blackthorn) A small number of the pre-1776 hedges are dominated by blackthorn. Some of these may never have been planted, but follow pre-1776 boundaries.

Pre-1776 (mixed <4.0) Hedges with mixed stretches, but elsewhere have been adulterated by relatively recent planting, usually of hawthorn.

Pre-1776 (mixed >4.0) Genuinely mixed hedges with no dominant species.

h1>Hedges dominated by one species

The commonest hedge type consists dominantly of hawthorn. Blackthorn, rose and elder are the main other species found in hawthorn hedges. There are many different varieties of hawthorn. Both common (Crataegus monogyna) and Midland species (C. oxyacanthoides) are found, but there is a wide range of leaf types between the two, presumably from their hybrids. In addition, the variety planted along the new roads in 1987 originated in Holland and is not an English native species. Tree species that occur in hawthorn-dominant hedges include ash, which is the most common, field maple, crab apple, wych elm, small-leaved elm and oak. Oak is uncommon in the parish, even as full-grown trees, but it has been included and cut in hedges in the south-west of the parish. The elm is usually cut to the hedge, but much of the ash has been left to grow, either from old lays, where tall trees grow out of horizontal stumps or from very big, low stools that have obviously been coppiced in the past. From measurements of the girth of these trees it seems that coppicing of the hedgerow ash generally ceased after the Second World War. Dogwood, wild privet, purging buckthorn and hazel are present bur uncommon varieties present in hawthorn-dominant hedges.

On Whitefields and Spring farms the elder has been taken out of all the hawthorn hedges in the last five to ten years and a combination of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, field maple, purging buckthorn, spindle and damson planted in the gaps. On Brocker Farm wayfaring tree, hazel, field maple, rose, crab apple and cherry have been planted in recent years both in new hedges and in gaps in old ones.

Other hedges dominated by a single species include blackthorn, which occur in the southern half of the parish. Where present along waterways they were probably generated naturally. There are some whole pre-1776 hawthorn hedges and short stretches of enclosure hedges along farm tracks and near farm buildings that are blackthorn dominant. Near the farms they may be mixed with damson. Damson hedges are present in one or two places, including along Grantham Road in Bingham itself, and there is one old yew hedge along the eastern boundary of Robert Miles Junior School, which used to be the boundary within property belonging to the old rectory.

Mixed hedges

Mixed hedges are those in which there is no single dominant species. They usually have four or more species per 30 metres. However, there are several hedges in the parish with averages of more than three in which there are stretches of hedge that are clearly mixed, but the rest has been modified by later planting.

Among the most diverse mixed hedges are the ones that were planted in 1987 along the north side of the new A52. Long stretches are dominated by different varieties of plum, but there are also hawthorn, dogwood, field maple, rose, ash, hazel, spindle, wayfaring tree and guelder rose. Another excellent mixed hedge, planted around 1968 is to be found for 150 metres within a dominantly hawthorn hedge on the west side of Chapel Lane.

Supposedly ancient mixed hedges are relatively uncommon. Most are north of the railway line between Foss Road Farm on the A46 and Chapel Lane. The other significant area is in the east between Derry Lane and Brocker Farm. There are some within Bingham itself and near Top Brackendale Farm. These hedges would include some or all of hawthorn, blackthorn, wych elm, small-leaved elm, elder, dogwood, rose, ash, crab apple, wild privet and field maple. Three additional species, hazel, spindle and purging buckthorn, are strictly local. Both hazel and spindle occur in the north-west, along and near Chapel Lane. This is the only place where spindle is thought to be an original species in the hedges, rather than one planted in the last two decades. In the eastern parts of the parish, between Derry Lane and Brocker Farm, purging buckthorn occurs in the mixed hedges. Apart from one or two localities in the south-west this is the only area where this appears to be an original species. Hazel occurs in the eastern area, but is rare.

For further information about the hedges in the parish go to: Detailed description of Bingham’s hedges



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