Branchage

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A parish official measures a roadside verge during a visite du branchage

In Guernsey and Jersey all landowners are responsible for cutting back all trees, hedgerows and banks bordering public roads.

Jersey

Twice a year in Jersey each parish conducts a Visite du Branchage to ensure that this work has been carried out and that there are no obstructions, which incur a financial penalty. Originally there was one Visite, on Midsummer day, involving great pomp and ceremony. The parish Constable and the 12 principal landowners of each district met the Bailiff and Viscount, who were accompanied by three or more Jurats, all mounted, at the parish boundaries, from whence they proceeded with the Viscount at the head.

He carried his staff of office erect, with the base resting on the pummel of his saddle; the law being that if the staff touched a branch of any tree the owner thereof, whether present or absent, was summarily condemned to a fine, the overseer of the parish being under a like penalty if the roads or hedge banks were found in an unsatisfactory condition.

Today, with much greater traffic using island roads, two annual Visites du Branchage (albeit not on horseback, and not involving the Bailiff and Viscount) are conducted in each parish to ensure that the roads remain unrestricted.

The first Visite is between 1-15 July and the second is between 1-15 September.

Occupiers of land may be fined up to £50 for each infraction, something of an advancement from the penalty which remained at ten shillings (50p) for decades until updated in the late 20th century. All vegetation must be trimmed back to give a clearance of 12 feet over main roads and by-roads and 8 feet over footpaths; and all trimmings must be removed from the road.

If the branchage has not been completed the occupier will be required to undertake the work and, if it is not carried out, the parish may arrange for the work to be done and charge the occupier the cost of that work.

Guernsey

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