LANDOWNERS on Sodbury Common are furious after hedgerows and blackberry bushes were ripped out, sparking a row with the conservators of the land.

Farming families were shocked to discover that hedges several metres deep had been mown down and the wood burned in a mass clearance operation.

Stuart McDiarmid, of Birch Grove Farm, returned home from a trip to America last week to find his family’s land exposed to the rest of the common.

He said: "We are worried that cattle will be able to get onto our land.

"We have not been consulted at all or given the chance to trim the hedges ourselves. They have just been ripped out and left in a terrible mess and there are fires still smouldering."

He added: "What really annoys me is the arrogance they have to think they can just come along and do whatever they like.

"A lot of people come blackberry picking on the common and they will think this clearance has been carried out by us farmers."

He said the hedgerows were home to a variety of wildlife.

Timothy Dolman, of Ashleaze House, has lived on the common since he was born there in 1958.

He said: "The trees were just ripped out with a machine when they could have just been trimmed.

"If we don’t look after the land now, what is going to be left in the future?"

Mr Dolman said he could lose money because of the clearance.

"The farmer who rents my land for sheep grazing is not going to be very impressed if a load of cattle end up in the field," he said.

Terry Gywnn, chairman of the conservators, said the hedges needed cutting back.

"We have turned it from scrub land into park land," he said. "In some places the overgrowth is about 20 feet deep and it encroaches on the common.

"We have cleared about 1,500 metres of hedgerows so far and we will gradually work our way around the common, although we have finished the work for this year.

"Some landowners keep their hedges trimmed but where they do not we have a duty to keep it in order and we do not go on anybody’s land to do the work."