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Dating Ancient Hedges in West Wales

The map on the right was published in 1850. It shows the road leading to our farm 'Motygido' - shown on the map as 'Bot-y-gido' with its perimeter outlined in red. On the right is the A487 - Cardigan to Aberystwyth road. 

We know the roads and hedges here are old, but just how old are they?

We sampled the hedges at 5 locations shown in red using 'Hooper's Law' -  a method devised by Dr. Max Hooper in the 1950's for dating hedges in the English Midlands. 

Click on the map for some history of our farm at Motygido - one of the first private schools in Wales in the early 18th century and run by the Rev. John Pugh.


On the right - just before the trees and where the river flows down to Llanina is the hedge near to where the cottage 'Rhyd-y-pennau' was located - see our Mr Jacob's Lily page about its previous inhabitants.

Moira is recording woody species on the inside of the same hedge shown on the left. Because of the height of the hedge above the road, we checked species on both sides.

Hooper's Law is based upon the number of woody species found in a 30m (100 ft.) length of hedge. Using hedges of known age from old maps, he found that the number of species X 100 roughly equals the age of the hedge. However at least 3 random samples should be taken and an average calculated.

West Wales is on roughly the same latitude as the English Midlands and in our area, hedges rather than stone walls have been used throughout history to delineate field margins. Consequently we consider the same dating method as valid in this area. We counted species in 5 -  30m lengths of hedge - excluding climbers and shrubs such as Bramble, Dog Rose and Honeysuckle. The results are shown below - the numbers indicate the locations on the map above. 

1 2 3 4 5
Hazel Sycamore Birch Sallow Hazel
Oak Hazel Gorse Hazel Rowan
Blackthorn Rowan Oak Hawthorn Sallow
Hawthorn Hawthorn Hawthorn Rowan Dogwood
Sallow Blackthorn Sallow Sycamore Sycamore
Rowan Ash Hazel Oak Blackthorn
Laburnum Sallow Rowan Ash Hawthorn
  Gorse Blackthorn Blackthorn Birch
      Birch Oak
Total = 7 Total = 8 Total = 8 Total = 9 Total = 9

The average number of species in the 5 chosen locations is 8.2 - indicating a hedge age  exceeding  800 years. There is some documentary evidence that our farm 'Motygido' was there more than 400 years ago, but this hedge dating method suggests that the road leading to the properties 'Motygido' and 'Goitre' is very much older.


The hedge on the right of this photograph is at location number 3 - formerly beside a road, but now bordering a field. The existence of the former road is indicated by the line of Oak trees now growing some 15 m inside the field boundary and the change in levels.


İRod Attrill 2003