Trees and hedges

From the Alnwick Mercury, 23rd August 1879

Alnwick Mercury – Saturday 23 August 1879

The Times gives the following Interesting letter on the above subject:—

Sir,

Several weeks ago I saw a communication in The Times on the subject of trees in England, referring principally to planting. It was suggestive to me, and I venture to express a thought or two, if you please, as to an impression upon my mind your beautiful country has made. I expect it will be heresy to say it, but it seems to me that too much land here is occupied by trees, particularly trees that are isolated or in straggling groups. Trees are of all growths perhaps the most beautiful; yet there are a greater number in English lands than are necessary for beauty of landscape, and vastly more of them than are advantageous to the agriculturists. Acres upon acres are absorbed by trees that are in any point of view useless. But few of them have value as timber at all commensurate with that of the space they occupy in shade and in absorbing nutrition, which could both be used so advantageously by farmers in grain growing.

If there were fewer trees it is probable the atmosphere would be more dry, yet never or rarely ever, too dry for such a sea girt country, so well supplied with streams of water. It is too moist and too cold as it is now for best results to the farmer, so that he would have a double gain by diminution of the number of trees, especially of those which stand in the fields and hedgerows.

It is probable that my thoughts run counter to well settled predilections, yet I should, at least, be pleased to excite attention to the subject, and provoke discussion among those who are familiar with it. There are lands now lying waste that might advantageously be used for tree-planting, if the axe should be applied to many now standing where they are of no possible use, but in very many cases a positive detriment, as viewed either from an aesthetical or utilitarian standpoint. Trees growing alone rarely acquire the dignified rank of classification as timber, and hope of future benefit from them for the wood they may afford are groundless.

Such tree culture as there may be should, of course, have reference to future use, and those trees planted or nourished that are likely to become actually valuable. Doubtless much attention is given to that point, but it can be done without affecting unfavourably the beauty cf landscape scenery, and landowners, in order to bring best results, will have to consent to some afflictions in parting with trees that have for a long time been indulged with choice places on their estates. In short, there are more trees growing in open places in England than are necessary for use or beauty, and an improvement that is practical can be most judiciously applied.

I may venture in this connexion another suggestion. It is that there is much more land occupied by hedges than is necessary for either use or beauty. There are thousands of acres in England occupied by hedges that might, with very great advantage, be used to procure food for the people. The landscapes would be improved by the removal of most of them. I trust that proposition to make this innovation—the removal of hedges—would meet with less opposition than a reduction of the number of trees that grow open lands; but, whether so or not, England cannot afford to waste too much on conceits of the beauty of hedges and of isolated trees. Is not the excess of hedging and of useless trees in the nature of a crime against the suffering agriculturists and hungry people?

Very respectfully, John A. Gans. Leamington, Aug. 7.

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