Devon Churches Rural Forum


No.84. Dear Friends in FCN Devon Team: Reflections & Prayers fortnightly Fri.Jan.28th 2022 from John 


In our hedges here, the glorious yellow of winter jasmine has brightened parts. Honeysuckle is budding. Hawthorn is dormant. Holly glistens. Brambles, Briers, Ivy, Madder, Cleavers (Galium aparine) scramble for support. Frost lies long against north-facing hedgerows while sun melts it early against south-facing parts. Hedges keep owned livestock in and others out. In financial terms, the risk-averse ‘hedge their bets’ and formalise this by investing in ‘hedge funds’ which are not to be confused with ‘tree banks’!! In the UK, many hedges and other forms of field boundary date from the period of our Enclosure Acts (c.1760-1820). Some are much older. Some are ‘assart’ (woodland remnants). One of our own boundaries here is medieval.  

A 2000-year-old Roman boundary 73 miles long separates England and Scotland (Hadrian’s Wall)… However, Devon has more hedges than any other part of the UK, and some 33,000 miles (53,000 km) form a network from coast to coast through this third-largest of English Counties. The Devon Hedge Group ( seeks to champion and conserve them, running annual awards. Apart from sheltering livestock and wildlife, hedges provide nesting sites for many birds, and are good for flowers, berries, nuts and other fruits. Some 20% of England’s species-rich hedges are in Devon. Work at Monks Wood in Huntingdonshire in the 1960s confirmed the belief that the older the hedge, the more different species will be found in a 100m length. From 1953 to its sad closure in 2009, much valuable work in terrestrial ecology was done there. Medieval hedges in particular contribute to the irregular, sinuous network of small fields and deep lanes which define the rural landscape of Devon (= ‘land of deep valleys’). Some of Devon’s oldest hedges date from prehistory or incorporate archaeological earthworks. These include Dartmoor ‘reaves’ (systems of long parallel boundary banks) around 4000 years old. Devon also contains many manor estate hedgebanks documented in Anglo-Saxon Charters, and surviving today as Parish Boundaries. Classic West Country ‘stone hedges’ have the living hedge planted atop an embedded stone bank. 


In the 1950s & ’60s, British farmers were encouraged to remove hedges and fill in farm ponds. There are now various schemes to support their reinstatement as ‘public goods’ which can enhance the landscape, contribute to ‘biodiversity net gain’ and play their own part in ‘carbon capture’ to mitigate global warming. Though not competent, I learned hedge-laying in Warwickshire in the English Midlands. Much debate surrounds hedge management:- to cut in early or late autumn? to cut slightly less off each year? to set at various angles either billhook swipes – or more usually in these labour-costly days, the hedge-cutting machine blades? In Gloucestershire, we found that an A-shaped cross section with a wide base and short top seemed to combine three advantages:- more nesting sites for birds were provided; stock-proofing was better; shelter for crops or livestock beyond the hedge was improved since winds were deflected more upwards & further. Many hedges have small gaps (smeuses) at their base made by regular routes of badgers & others. 


The Bible describes the way of the slothful as like an overgrown hedge of thorns (Prov.15:19), and warns of judgment via paths blocked with thorn hedges (Hos.2:6), and breaking up a hedge can disturb biting snakes (Eccl.10:8). Satan charged the LORD God with putting a protective hedge around Job and his household and livestock (Job 1:10) claiming that was the only reason Job trusted God.  The removal of a hedge is a loss of protection from God Himself (Isa.5:5) while failure to fill the gaps in a hedge is a dereliction of leadership duty (Ezek.13:5). The LORD said, “I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none” (Ezek.22:30). I love the description of rural economy under God in 1 Chron.4:23, ‘These were the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the King for his work’.  May we serve among our own hedgerows, and stand up for Christ the King & His laws in our time, & value hedges


Let’s thank God for hedgerows & biodiversity; for developing crops & livestock; for vaccinations & that we are immunisable; for each other; for those we help via FCN; FCN nationally led by Jude McCann; farms/rural communities; our Founder Christopher Jones; our Patron HRH The Prince of Wales; UK Gov’t/democracy, & ELMS; NHS & Carers; Schools; Pharmacists; Water & Food suppliers; Food Chain; transport logistics; police/crime prevention; Vets; rural craft skills and custodians of them… 


Let’s pray for winter provision & livestock husbandry; for Young Farmers; for students; for the mentally-stressed, confused, lonely; for businesses, organisations, new roles & ventures; caution to ‘stay alert!’ & act responsibly; for social discipline to respect, protect, enjoy; for all who mourn; for refugees & migrants


Let’s pray re: Afghanistan; Australia, Canada/USA, Europe, Belarus, Brazil; DRCongo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Israel, Palestine; Yemen; Madagascar, Myanmar; Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Kenya, RSA, Sudan, S.Sudan, Tonga, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Russia. 


Let’s praise & offer ourselves through Psalms - Psa.145 esp.vv.13-16, with prayers - keep looking up! John 

PS feel free to ring on 01626 873159




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