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Ancient Hedgerow Destroyed on Yew Tree Farm

By louisev
7th November 2023

At 8:30am this morning private contractors tore down a patch of ancient hedgerow as part of a contentious plan to turn working farm land in Bedminster Down into a housing development.



Yew Tree farm has been farmed by Catherine Withers’ family 56 years and in April this year Catherine was told she had been evicted off of one third of the land with little warning.

Despite months of campaigning and hounding the council work started today to remove a portion of the ancient hedgerow to make way for a gate which will open a field to development.

This ancient hedgerow had recently been discovered as home to a potentially new species of fly (View the official invertebrate survey here) but just like other places of biodiversity importance, the habitat is torn down before there is time to investigate.

Whilst the hedgerow itself can survive the damage caused today, it highlights a wider issue. Nature and those that speak up for its protection are often pushed aside and ignored when it comes to large scale development. Catherine has been working tirelessly to protect the land she has lived and worked on. Speaking with B24/7 news site Withers says

“This has come as a huge shock and it’s obviously devastating, I’m completely broken with the other things I’m having to battle at the farm. The people that want to destroy anything green and natural are winning and people that want to protect the natural world are losing. “

News such as this is all too prevalent this year when we have seen the removal of ancient mature trees in Plymouth and at Hadrian’s wall. Mature established habitats are much more important ecologically than new plantings and simply regrowing this nature somewhere else is not enough to undo the damage.

Bristol City Council planning department are being blamed for incompetence and mistakes leading up to today.

Although new legislation from the council’s 15 year housing blueprint may now protect the farm from further development. The new legislation scraps the plan for 200 new homes to be built “making it virtually impossible in development terms” to build there.

Members who have been campaigning for Yew tree’s protection are cautiously optimistic about this as it is still possible for a developer to put in a housing bid before this local legislation is officially adopted.

Only time will tell whether the destruction witnessed on the hedgerow today will be a marker for future action on the farm. At CPRE Avon and Bristol we hope that Catherine Withers struggle will soon be over. The rising tide of development is ever present in our countryside. Unfortunately, the tight rope walk of fixing the housing crisis and protecting nature is one too often taken by those who would take money over nature. Something at CPRE we hope to change.

We are actively working to protect, build and sustainably maintain hedgerows, to find out more and volunteer with our hedgerow heroes programme look at our hedgerow heroes page.

To support our on going hedgerow protection work please donate here.

Update 09/11/2023

Longmore Land Limited the owners of the field who are the current owners of the field with which the land use dispute is with say “Longmoor Land is at the same time planting 250ft of new hedgerow in the same field, replacing the amount of hedgerow removed around 20 times over,” This is in response to the local outrage of the event on Tuesday.

Hedgerow destroyed Yew Tree Farm photo by Betty Woolerton