Neglect is now the biggest enemy of the hedgerow. Rates of hedgerow destruction reduced during the 1990s, and some hedgerows are protected by law against removal. However, hedges can still be lost through neglect and bad management. Once they have started to thin out and become bare at the base, or comprise little more than an intermittent line of shrubby trees, the end is in sight unless action is taken. This may involve rejuvenating the hedge by laying or coppicing, with or without planting up of gaps. Simply fencing a neglected hedge against grazing and trampling by stock is also a way of allowing a hedgerow to regenerate, although this is unlikely to bring it back into a suitable state for laying.
In deciding how to restore a neglected hedge, consider what is wanted of it in the future. Some hedges need to be maintained as fairly tight, trimmed hedges, to keep them stockproof and to confine them to a certain height and width. In other cases it may be possible to turn a neglected hedge into a shelter belt or woodland corridor. This will take up more land, but will have a much higher wildlife and shelter value, and can be managed for coppice products and timber. A woodland corridor of native broadleaves doesn’t need annual trimming or periodic laying, and where fencing is needed against stock, this will cost little more than for a hedge. This approach allows the retention of mature hedgerow shrubs, old pleachers and moribund stumps and stools, all of value for wildlife, but a nuisance in a traditional laid hedge. See page 90 for more on woodland corridors.