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Field boundaries such as hedged banks, hedges and field walls are found in widely differing forms across Europe. Mostly they enclose areas used for agriculture. Closely associated with the history of cultural landscapes, they are an important and distinctive part of the common European heritage: they are fundamental to the attractiveness of much of the countryside, with associated recreational benefits. They are also essential living space, or habitat, for many organisms. Moreover, they have many agricultural functions such as marking boundaries, controlling livestock movement and providing protection against wind and soil erosion.
Dead brushwood hedges have existed for approximately 1.8 million years; stick picket fences, woven vertical branch fences and wattle fences for more than 600 000 years. Hedged banks and field walls were first introduced along with arable cultivation more than 10 000 years ago.
Despite their huge importance, especially as part of our cultural heritage and for the conservation of nature and landscape, they are gradually being damaged and destroyed – a process which has been going on for decades unbeknown to the public.
While carrying out my research and looking through my photographs I realised that there were many hedged banks in other countries about which very little information was apparently available. The task before me was to find out what condition they were in and what knowledge existed about them: I took the decision to include the hedged banks of the neighbouring countries of Austria, France and the Netherlands in the survey.
Initially the aim of the survey, which covered a period from 1979-2012, was only targeted at recording hedged banks in Europe, later it was extended to include field walls. In the course of time, the survey was also extended to include dead brushwood hedges, wattle and other traditional fences as well as openings and passages etc. My aim was to record as many field boundaries as possible, taking pictures of them as well as collecting information. In doing so, the following questions were asked:
1. Which types of field boundaries occur in Europe?
2. What do these look like?
3. Where do they still exist?
4. How old are they?
5. What is the extent of their distribution?
6. How were they erected, from which materials, in what construction form?
7. When and for what reason were field boundaries erected?
8. Which woody growths compose their vegetation (a rough overview)?
9. How were the shrubs and trees planted and managed?
10. Which methods exist to trim and weave shrubs and trees or to bend or lay hedges?
11. How are they maintained today and in past times?
12. What is the condition of them today?
13. What is the extent of damage, and what caused it?
14. How and to what extent are new field boundaries being erected today?
15. What forms of legal protection are in place in individual countries etc?
Europe's Field Boundaries gives a wide ranging overview of the field boundaries found in Europe. Findings regarding the worldwide history, formation and geographical range of field boundaries are also detailed.
It provides a detailed documentation of hedged banks, hedges, field walls and traditional fences based on results from a survey undertaken over a period of 30 years in which photos were taken, drawings made, descriptions written and measurements were taken. This project was solely financed by the author. The appearance, function, characteristics, condition and woody growth as well as the different uses of the field boundaries are covered in detail. So too are the methods of cutting woody growth, weaving, bending and other types of maintenance. The loss of field boundaries, the extent of damage and the causes of damage, as well as newly built examples are also described.
Europe's Field Boundaries is split into two volumes. The first volume provides an overview of Europe, while the second volume is dedicated to detailed descriptions of the different countries surveyed. The historical description of field boundaries ranges from the Palaeolithic Age up to the present day. The hedged banks, field walls (dry stone walls and stone banks), dead brushwood fences, stick picket fences, woven vertical branch fences, wattle fences and other traditional fences are summarised, classified and their distribution illustrated. The woody growth on the banks and field walls is assessed and standardised. The tree and woody growth is evaluated and set out in tables. In addition, about 170 different earth banks, 160 stone faced banks, 10 peat banks, 330 field walls, 240 hedge styles, 70 dead brushwood hedges, stick picket fences, vertical branch fences, wattle fences and other traditional wooden fences are depicted in diagrams. Other types are described and illustrated.
The significance of hedged banks and field walls to the farming industry is also discussed as well as the economic implications of the creation of new ones. The effect of excessive cutting of woody growth on yields is also detailed.
A brief overview of the international agreements and EU responsibilities regarding the protection of hedged banks and other landscape elements is given. The ecological significance of hedged banks and hedges is described with the help of examples. The numerous methods of cutting and maintenance, as well as their influence on the hedge and woody growth structure, on the organisms therein and on the character of the landscape, are presented in detail.
The use of woody growth from field boundaries as a source of wood fuel and the impacts of this are also detailed. The European chapter ends with a general overview of the types of damage which affect field boundaries, the reasons for loss and also the construction of new hedge banks and field walls.
This is followed by detailed information on the individual countries surveyed as presented below:
1. The country name with a photo of a typical field boundary landscape.
2. Map and description of the hedged banks and field wall survey route.
3. General information about the country.
4. Pictorial representation of typical hedge banks and field wall landscapes.
5. Brief country settlement description.
6. The section "Hedged banks, field walls (dry stone walls/stone banks)" contains a selection of different terms connected with field boundaries which are translated from the respective country's language. A description of the history and development of hedged banks and field walls follows in as much detail as possible. An overview of the status of hedged banks and field walls is then given, together with an account of the appearance and types of woody growth associated with them. Information regarding maintenance methods, condition, types of damage and the legal protection status is provided.
7. The chapter "Banks and field walls" contains illustrations of a variety of such types of boundaries.
8. Dead brushwood hedges, stick picket fences, woven vertical branch fences, wattle fences and traditional wooden fences are described in as much detail as possible.
9. This section is dedicated to passages, gateways, crossings, waterways and ditches.
10. The section "Vegetation growth" gives an overview of the vegetation types found.
11. The Chapter "Vegetation cutting styles on hedged banks and field wall hedges" presents information about the folding, laying and bending of living woody growth as well as various hedge styles.
12. A section "Damage" covers the major damaging activities inflicted on hedged banks and field walls.
13. "Maintenance" covers, in particular, the traditional management of the woody growth on banks and field walls.
14. The description of building of new hedged banks and field walls is also presented.
15. In the "Literature" section documents used during the survey and in each country description is quoted.
"Under this title G. Müller presents the most exhaustive study ever presented about the hedges, hedged banks, field walls and the full range of field boundaries found in Europe. With the help of a large number of illustrations, it shows a previous- ly unimaginable diversity of hedges and other types of field boundaries which have a significant impact on the landscape. Many only remain as relict features and are here uniquely documented as part of our cultural historic heritage, whereas others will remain due to special protection measures. This monumental piece of work is the result of intense research that lasted over 30 years and was conducted in over 30 European countries. The results have been carefully examined and presented in a very attractive and instructive manner. Among other things, they show the connection between farming methods based on the different landscapes and their corresponding field boundaries. There are, for example, living hedges and hedged banks, dead hedges, stone banks and field walls, all constructed and managed differently, as described in detail in the text supported by numerous photos and drawings. Some of the structures described are ancient and date back to the Palaeolithic era. Extensive literature especially on hedges does exist, however this piece of work is the first to so comprehensively cover the distribution, construction and history of field boundaries. It will be the main source of information about these important cultural assets and their links to the landscape and agricultural history. Any future research in this area will be based on this book, which will serve as a reference in this field for the unforeseeable future."
– Prof. em. Drs. Dr. H.C. Heinrich E. Weber
"With the publication of his extensive documentation and examination of the field boundaries of Europe, Georg Müller from Ganderkesee (BR Germany) has produced an epic work of literature on the occurrence and history of this part of our cultural landscapes, both ancient and recent. For the first time the book makes data and visual documentation collected over a period of more than 30 years available to a wide audience Not only does the information hugely increase our understanding of cultural landscapes across Europe, it will also serve to increase public awareness of the importance of field boundaries to our cultural history. The completed manuscript has over 5000 images, drawings and maps as well as nearly 1000 printed pages. I recommend it without hesitation. All the information, pictures and maps etc have thoroughly been researched, and so are of high documentary and investigative value for studies on European cultural landscapes. Reflecting its high quality, the book will be a long-lasting source of information on which to base further investigations into the farmed landscape of Europe."
– Prof. Dr. Uwe Meiners, Leading Director of the Lower saxon one open-air museum – Museum Village Cloppenburg
"Georg Müller has written a fabulous book which will be a standard reference tome for years to come. Fieldwork for the book started in 1981 and includes insights from personal visits to over 20 000 km of field boundaries in 32 European countries Field boundary types include dry brush (dead) hedges, woven stick, wooden and stone fences, living hedges and hedge banks and dry stone walls. The work seeks to show the distribution of different field boundaries throughout Europe with estimates of condition and status. The book starts with an introduction to the historical development of field boundaries and then moves into detailed survey results. Apart from the detailed text, the book includes excellent photographs and diagrams illustrating the different types of field boundary and their variants, so there is, for example, not just a single photograph of a stone wall, but a whole collection supported by line diagrams of different construction methods The illustrations of different hedging styles are breathtakingly beautiful and I'd happily hang some in my office! The work is the outcome of an obsession with understanding the nature and scope of field boundaries; in doing so Georg Müller may be providing us with a last glimpse of what we once possessed. Alternatively, and this is my hope, his work may stimulate increased conservation and protection of the wonderful diversity of European field boundaries. Field boundaries are not simply stock control or ownership boundary features, they are human cultural artefacts – and their presence in the landscape is a physical history of human endeavour."
– Professor John W. Dover, Staffordshire University