Hedge Britannia: A Curious History of a British Obsession

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A&C Black, May 10, 2012 - Gardening - 336 pages
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Hedge Britannia is a portrait of the nation unlike any other. It is a tale of how agricultural and gardening traditions came to the British Isles, and of how our ideas of territory, neighbours and boundaries came to define town and country alike.

Over the centuries we have proved ourselves to be a nation of ardent hedge-growers and this has shaped the landscape we know today. From rolling acres to suburban plots, nothing would be quite the same if the hedge had
not made its appearance. It was the arrival of hedges that turned the forests and open pastures of our ancestors into a land of segregated fields, twisting hedgerows, enclosed gardens and, eventually, over-the-top topiary, decorative borders and controversial leylandii.

Hugh Barker, a hedge enthusiast, has journeyed across Britain to explore its remarkable variety of gardens and hedgerows. Over the course of his travels he discovers how hedges are among our most ancient monuments,
meets hedgelaying champions and topiary fanatics, and sees the lengths to which some people will go to annoy the neighbours. Along the way he tells how the garden hedge became associated with paradise, why the British army planted a barrier hedge hundreds of miles long in India, and how the notorious enclosures during the Industrial Revolution turned the country upsidedown. Informative, revealing, anecdotal and just a little eccentric, this is a sweeping history of Britain as you’ve never seen it before.
 

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Contents

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and
1
Roots
15
The Great British Hedgerow Experiment
41
The Elephant Hedge
56
From the Mldwood to the Birth
83
A Brief History of
101
Formal and Sacred Gardens
145
The Secret Garden
158
Quarrelsome Neighbours
187
Private Property
205
Hedges and Snobbery
221
Irregular
245
Preserving the Countryside
261
The Symbolism and Politics
279
The Future ofHedge Britannia
295
Bibliography
308

Levens Hall
174
Growth and Conservation
179

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About the author (2012)

Hugh Barker has been a bookseller, musician, fruit picker, barman, publisher and writer, amongst other things. He currently lives in North London with his wife, daughter and several cats, surrounded by a small hedge that he can call his own.

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