A hedge may consist of a single species or several, typically mixed at random.
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Others were built during the Medieval field rationalisations; more originated in the industrial boom of the 18th and 19th centuries, when heaths and uplands were enclosed.
Many hedgerows separating fields from lanes in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Low Countries are estimated to have been in existence for more than seven hundred years, originating in the medieval period.
In parts of Britain, early hedges were destroyed to make way for the manorial open-field system.
Many were replaced after the Enclosure Acts, then removed again during modern agricultural intensification, and now some are being replanted for wildlife.
The most common species are oak and ash, though in the past elm would also have been common.
Around 20 million elm trees, most of them hedgerow trees, were felled or died through Dutch elm disease in the late 1960s.
Many other species are used, notably including beech and various nut and fruit trees.
New trees can be established by planting but it is generally more successful to leave standard trees behind when laying hedges.
Increasingly, they are valued too for the major role they have to play in preventing soil loss and reducing pollution, and for their potential to regulate water supply and to reduce flooding.