The last blog ended with reference to the little animal, the hedgehog. I think that the second syllable, ‘hog’ was made clear. But I wonder, if my readers have a clear understanding of the meaning of the first syllable ‘hedge’.
A simple explanation would be, a line of live bushes, separating one area of land from another. Then, it occurred to me that the UK has more hedges, than most other countries. Naturally, the next reaction is, why is this so? A brief history of the development of the hedge may help.
During the Neolithic Age (4000 BC), people began changing from hunting to corn growing and animal farming. In order to do this the people (then mostly Celts) had to cut down forests, to develop clearings. Into the clearings came a few hedges, which separated the various forms of farming activities. In order to account for the UK’s hundreds of thousands of today’s hedges, I must jump from Neolithic times to the 18/19th century AD.
The population was mainly divided between the (often greedy) rich landowner, and the poor peasant. The peasant was allowed to grow food on a small section of the landowner’s land. In return, the peasant had to cultivate, both the landowner’s and his own land. The peasant was also free to hunt wild animals of the forest. Then, in 1760 AG, the first Land Enclosure, Act of Parliament, became law. Please remember, that it would be many years before the worker was able to vote for full representation. The result was the development of hedges.
They helped in the specialisation of crop growing, at a time, when the importing of enough corn was restricted by wars with France, America, etc. they also helped the landowners to clearly separate their own land from each other, as they gradually stole areas of common land and made it their own. At the same time it was illegal for the peasant to enter these areas. In the meantime, hunting on horses had become a ‘must’ for rich landowners. Another reason why the peasant wasn’t allowed to hunt freely across the land. The poor peasant was hungry. Many of them migrated to the towns, where the industrial revolution was developing. There, they became underpaid factory workers, and this was an important element in the growth of the well known (infamous) slum housing.
And today? the multitude of hedges remain. We think that they look beautiful and act as ideal nesting places for birds (and hedgehogs). Farmers will say that they prevent strong winds and frosts from damaging crops. But visitors, be very careful! It is still illegal to walk on land, which is surrounded by hedges. You are lucky, that you don’t have all these restricting hedges. How free is freedom??
it occurred to me - the thought/idea came to me
brief - small / quick
during - within a time period
develop - grow / evolve
to account for - give an explanation of
greedy - wanting to eat / own everything
crops - groups of plants in the field
steal / stole / stolen - verb, meaning to illegally take from other people
in the meantime - happening at the same time
to prevent - not to allow / to block