Hedges bordering a public road must be cut back between the 1st and 15th June and between the 15th and 30th September each year, so that they do not overhang a road or pavement below the height of 12 feet. Ideally, hedges should if possible, be cut in declivity (sloping away from the road). By law all cuttings must be cleared up immediately. Failure to do so can incur a fine of £50 and £5 per day there after.
Over recent years, an increasing amount of damage to roadside hedges, banks and road-signs has been reported, frequently due to the passage of large farm tractors, trailers and badly controlled flail cutters. There is also the problem of some banks being virtually stripped of any vegetation by aggressive scalping and hand weeding or, worse still, even covering with Mypex. Although all roadside hedges and banks etc., must be cut in compliance with the law, we should all do that we can to preserve the natural environment and beauty of the Island. Banks which have been reduced to virtual “dust-bowls” destroy all flora, fauna and insect life and lead to erosion.
Streams and douits are inspected twice a year, normally at the time of hedge inspection by the Douzeniers. It is the landowner’s responsibility to ensure that the water flow is not restricted and is flowing freely.
Landowners and gardeners are reminded that as well as taking care to avoid injuring hedgehogs, they must also take great care care to avoid cutting or strimming through any hidden Asian Hornet nests. This advice is not only directed to those cutting by hand, but also to those using tractor mounted equipment. Disturbance of a hornet nest will result in vigorous defensive action by the occupants, with potentially painful and serious consequences for anyone in the vicinity.
It is therefore worth taking a little time to check for signs of nests before any cutting and clearance work is carried out, either during the statutory hedge cutting periods or, at any other time of the year.
Advice promoted for sustainable hedge cutting to protect wildlife
To protect and support the island’s wildlife, Agriculture, Countryside & Land Management Services (ACLMS) and local wildlife groups are promoting advice for sustainable cutting of roadside hedges.
Guernsey’s beautiful landscape is defined by its distinctive roadside hedge banks which form an important part of our Island’s heritage. They form living threads which run through and connect the parishes and can be a haven for both plants and animals, adding much to the Island’s natural living diversity.
It is a legal requirement to cut roadside hedges each year between 1st – 15th June and then again between 15th – 30th September, however cutting a hedge too severely and frequently can have a detrimental effect on the vegetation and the wildlife it supports.
ACLMS recognise the importance of hedgerows for Guernsey’s local native wildlife and so, alongside local wildlife groups, are seeking to provide advice for sustainable hedge cutting, meaning the law can be abided while still protecting the natural environment and what makes Guernsey special.
- The law requires that roadside verges are cut between 1st – 15th June and then again between 15th – 30th September to remove overhanging vegetation.
- Cutting of internal hedges should be left until after the bird breeding season (March to end of July) at the earliest. We recommend cutting earth banks each year in late summer, and cutting hedges in the autumn once every 3 years;
- Check for nesting birds or other wildlife before commencing the cut. If a nest is found, avoid disturbing the birds by undertaking minimal cutting to this area using secateurs to remove any overhanging vegetation. If you find any injured wildlife contact the GSPCA;
- Earth banks should have a minimum 10cm (4 inches) of vegetation left after cutting to avoid desiccation and erosion. This will also allow dense vegetation to establish and reduce the amount of ‘pioneer’ plants which are faster growing, such as nettles and docks;
- If your earth bank hosts rare or uncommon plants, avoid cutting those plants until September if you’re able to do so without the vegetation overhanging the footpath or road;
- If a substantial cut is needed to the outside (road-facing side) of the hedge, delay cutting the inside face until at least the following year, or make it a light cut (don’t cut into woody material, only cut the new growth) to avoid stress on the hedge.
If landowners are concerned that an uncut or lightly cut section of hedge will create a hazard to road users they should contact their Parish Constables for advice. Any road signs, mirrors or traffic lights must always be visible. All cuttings should be cleared away immediately after the hedge is cut as cuttings can easily compromise road drainage if left.
Julia Henney, Biodiversity Officer, said:
“Hedge cutting is one of those things where two needs conflict each other. The Law exists so that people travelling by foot, by wheelchair or who are pushing buggies are not forced into the path of traffic by excessive growth of the hedge. Conversely, wildlife thrives in the network of hedgerows across our Island and so cutting them back too harshly negatively impacts the nature we seek to protect. But there is a way to protect both sides and that is by cutting hedges sensibly. By clarifying the requirements of the law and providing this guidance, we hope that landowners will have the information they need to be able to cut their hedges sustainably.”
Jamie Hooper, Conservation Officer at La Société Guernesiaise, said:
“Guernsey’s network of earth banks contributes to the character of the local landscape and supports a huge range of plants and associated wildlife. Annual maintenance of hedges is essential to preserve the fantastic displays of spring and summer flowers, along with invertebrates, nesting birds and small mammals. It is critical that the cutting is done sympathetically in order to prevent damage to the habitats or to the structure of the banks. Sadly, the sight of scalped hedges following inappropriate use of machinery has become all too familiar and often these areas are left prone to erosion or collapse during the winter months. We would ask that landowners and contractors follow this advice so that the island’s unique hedges are preserved for the future.”
Hedge cutting guidance can now be viewed at https://gov.gg/hedgecutting.