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19.02.19 Hedge-cutting season comes to an end

Hedge cutting season

A roadside hedgerow near St. Johnston.  The cutting of hedges from the end of February until August is not permitted under the Wildlife Acts except for reasons of public health and safety. 


Almost two-thirds of Ireland’s bird species nest in hedges and these hedgerows provide natural corridors that permit wildlife to move between habitats so from the end of February until August, hedgecutting is not permitted.  The closed season on hedge-cutting, set out in the Wildlife Acts, recognises the importance of conserving hedgerows and other vegetation for breeding birds and other animals and plants.  Public works involving the disturbance of hedgerows during this period may only be carried out for reasons of public health and safety. 


“Hedgerows are distinctive features of our landscape in County Donegal,” explained Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer.  “Hedges and other wild vegetation provide food and shelter for insects, birds and other animals.  Donegal County Council recognises the importance of maintaining hedgerows as part of wise conservation of our natural heritage, good farming practice and protecting County Donegal’s natural and picturesque beauty.  Under the Heritage Act 2018, controversial changes were introduced that permitted the cutting of roadside hedgerows in August on a pilot basis for two years under certain circumstances but best conservation practice would still suggest that hedges should not be cut until the start of September except in the interests of public health and safety.” 


Under the County Donegal Heritage Plan, Donegal County Council and The Heritage Council commissioned a survey of hedgerows in County Donegal that provided baseline data on County Donegal’s hedgerows.  It is estimated that hedgerows cover approximately 1.5% of the land area of Ireland and that there are 10,408 kilometres of hedgerows in County Donegal.  Common hedgerow species in County Donegal include ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, beech, eared willow, rusty willow, gorse, cotoneaster, fuchsia and privet.  The study found that 7% of hedgerows are either remnant or derelict with a further 40% of hedgerows losing structure meaning that they are not in a favourable condition for fulfilling their role in providing wildlife habitats and stock–proof barriers. 


If you would like to find out more about the wise management of hedgerows, The Heritage Council has produced a booklet with advice on best conservation practice and on planting native species.  Copies of the booklet entitled Conserving Hedgerows/Caomhnú Fálta are available free-of-charge from the County Donegal Heritage Office on (074) 917 2576 or by e-mail at:  [email protected].  The Hedgerow Survey of County Donegal can be downloaded here.

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