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Hedgelands : A wild wander around Britain's greatest habitat - Christopher Hart


A wild wander around Britain's greatest habitat

By: Christopher Hart

Hardcover | 18 January 2024

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'[A] joyously readable book- it riffs along like breeze in the hedgerow.' John Lewis-Stempel in Country Life

'Hart's passion for the potential that resides here is intoxicating. Occasionally an environmental solution comes along that is so breathtakingly simple you can't believe that not everyone is already doing it.' Sunday Times

'[Hart] has written an eye-opening and inspiring book which will leave you with a deep appreciation of these wonderful habitats' Daily Mail

In this joyous journey around the wild edges of Britain, Christopher Hart takes us through the life, ecology and history of the humble British hedge, showing us how this much-loved (but somewhat overlooked) feature is inextricably woven into our language, history and culture.

Hedges - or hedgerows - have long been an integral part of the British landscape; a bastion of privacy for our gardens, a protective presence on winding country lanes and a vital hiding place for birds and beasts on farmland.

This man-made marvel is finally getting its time in the sun. Recognised as an environmental hero and a powerful climate ally, hedgerow is now considered the greatest edge habitat on earth, offering thorny scrub, mature woodland, grassland and even wetland. It plays a critical role in carbon sequestration and provides essential protection against the elements.

Hedgelands highlights the hawthorn and hazel of ancient hedges; the abundance of wildlife, from the elusive dunnock to the striking nightingale, the industrious hedgehog to the little harvest mouse; and the free pickings that the hedgerow offers, making it an essential - and delicious - element of any countryside ramble.

Hedgelands will tell you everything you never thought you needed to know about this wild, diverse and rich habitat - and you might even look at your humble hedge in a whole new way.

'Hedgelands combines history, celebration, lament and warning. Christopher Hart is a companionable writer, and makes a powerful case that, at a time of ecological hazard, well-nurtured hedges can play an astonishing role in buttressing the future.' The Spectator

'A wonderful history of the threads that stitch the British countryside together.' Jake Fiennes, author of Land Healer

'A passionate celebration and exploration of our wonderful hedgerows. You'll be swept along by Hart's intoxicating enthusiasm.' Dave Goulson, author of Silent Earth

Industry Reviews

'A glorious anthem to the hedge! The sleeping giant that is waiting to be nurtured back to life-giving health. This wonderful book fires the imagination and will change the way you look at a hedge forever. And never was there a more urgent time to restore our degraded hedges into the lifelines they should be - for our beleaguered wildlife and for ourselves. Endlessly fascinating and teeming with 'Wow!'s. A must read for anyone who wants to help restore ecological health to our countryside.'

Keggie Carew, author of Beastly

'A hugely enjoyable ramble down the tangled green lanes of the beleaguered British countryside. Christopher Hart's investigations shine a new light on the humble hedgerow, in which all manner of solutions to our environmental problems can be found.'

Lee Schofield, author of Wild Fell

'This is a soaring love song to the hedge - not the straight-shorn sanitised garden hedges but the ancient hedgerows that heave with life. Hart is an enthusiastic guide to these beautiful, underestimated ecological niches, which not only provide habitats for birds, invertebrates and plants but are also carbon banks and food stores, and even supply ingredients for cocktails.'

Andrea Wulf, author of Magnificent Rebels

'We now know that if laid end to end, English hedges would stretch ten times around the earth. In Hedgelands, Christopher Hart has put his arms around the whole extraordinary network. He inspires us to see that the hedgerow is a national treasure even more important than we realised.'

Mark Cocker, author and naturalist

'Hedgelands is brilliant - fascinating, inspiring, important and extremely timely. It has taken my love and appreciation of our precious hedges to another level. Please buy it, read it and share it with everyone you know who has enough space to plant a hedge!'

Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of Dancing with Bees

'A wonderful history of the threads that stitch the British countryside together, Hedgelands provides a detailed description of the wonder of hedges and the vast array of species and benefits they provide for us.'

Jake Fiennes, author of Land Healer

'A lovely book on a really important subject. Passionate, personal and important. You won't ever look at a hedgerow in the same way again.'

Roger Morgan-Grenville, author of The Return of the Grey Partridge

'This deeply enjoyable book makes me want to go live in a mighty conservation hedge - or at least create one. Hart has delved deep into fascinating hedge etymology and history, and brings the joy of restoring a hedge to life. As an insect lover, I welcomed the stories of renewal, and abundance of insects and other wildlife. May many more hedges be created.'

Vicki Hird, author of Rebugging the Planet

'A passionate celebration and exploration of our wonderful hedgerows. You'll be swept along by Hart's intoxicating enthusiasm.'

Dave Goulson, author of Silent Earth

'At the Soil Association, we have long advocated for the reinstatement and proper care of that multifaceted boon to nature and farming, the hedgerow. With Christopher Hart's wonderful Hedgelands by your side, any farmer, conservationist or interested layperson will understand so much more about this extraordinary resource, and how to appreciate and care for it.'

Helen Browning, chief executive, Soil Association

'Hedgerows are linear forests. Christopher Hart shows us these jewels in the heart of the English countryside and how biodiversity makes them hum with a richness the planet needs. If we pay attention, the nightingales will sing for us, again and again.'

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of To Speak for the Trees

'Hedgelands is a marvellous walk through a traditional European agroforestry system, complete with information on benefits to biodiversity, wild foods, carbon, climate resilience and more. Highly recommended.'

Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution

'We all love hedgerows, and we're all appalled that so many have been destroyed over the last century. But Hedgelands highlights another threat to these valuable linear oases - many of them are very poorly managed. For though they resemble a woodland edge, these are not natural habitats: they are man-made and have to be managed sensitively if they are to provide a good home for our birds and bees, hedgehogs and weeds. In this fascinating and insightful book, Christopher Hart brings to life the rich natural and cultural history of the hedge and makes a compelling case that they may indeed, as he says, be "Britain's greatest habitat".'

Dr Charlie Gardner, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

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