When you’re planning on leaving your home to go on holiday most people think about locking their doors, windows and setting alarms.

But a poll of 1,000 UK households with garden hedges, commissioned by John Lewis Home Insurance, reveals a widespread lack of awareness of the importance of hedges in keeping our homes secure.

Three quarters (74%) of Scots surveyed admitted that their front hedge exceeds the one metre height recommended by the police and charity Crimestoppers. Nearly one third of Scottish respondents (32%) keep their hedge at double the recommended height, or even higher. Only one quarter(25%) consider the impact the height of their front hedge has in securing their home.

Across the UK, nearly half (48%) of those asked don’t change the height of their hedge, or keep it at the height that’s practical for them, and one in ten choose the height based on their neighbour’s hedge. One in eight say ‘style’ over safety most influences the height of their front hedge.

Rear garden hedges can also help protect homes but the police advice for them is the opposite of front hedges. You should keep them over 1.8 metres to make it hard for thieves to climb up and over them, yet nearly half of households (48%) surveyed said their rear hedge is 1.5 metres, or lower.

James Barwell, Head of John Lewis Home Insurance, said: “As people prepare to go away this summer they’ll be thinking about how they can keep their homes secure. Our survey found a lack of awareness of the importance of hedge height and confusion about whether hedges should be high, or low to deter burglars.

“During the lockdown many people bought more items for their homes and gardens as they became the place where we worked, entertained, slept and ate. We saw sales of tech in the home increase significantly and people invested in their gardens with new garden furniture, fire pits and pizza ovens, so it’s really important to ensure the right insurance cover is in place and to keep these items safe.”

Over half (55%) of households think their front hedge should be over the recommended height, or don’t know what height it should be, and a similar number (54%) think their back hedge should be below 1.8 metres, or don’t know what height it should be to help protect their home.

Mick Duthie, Director of Operations at the charity Crimestoppers said; “In these difficult financial times, protecting yourself as much as possible from crime is always wise, especially from the harm caused by burglary, which can have a devastating impact. We therefore strongly urge people to look at their garden hedges this summer and if needed cut them to help cut crime. It’s a simple and free way to keep your home more secure.

“Those surveyed said they keep their front hedge high to prevent people climbing on it, or seeing in but we know that what matters most to criminals is not being seen. A high front hedge gives them cover while they’re in a property or garden, and a low rear hedge gives them easy access to escape out the back.

“It’s not just the height of your hedge which can put off burglars. We recommend keeping all hedges thick, prickly and dense to further deter intruders. This is particularly effective for back hedges, as a robust hedge can block the escape of thieves who attempt to exit via the back garden.”

John Blackstaff, Plant Nursery Manager at the John Lewis Partnership’s Leckford Estate said: “There are plenty of hedge species that provide additional security without compromising the appearance of your garden. I recommend Pyracantha, Firethorn – an evergreen, vigorous and thorny plant, as its name suggests.

“A Holly bush is also a good traditional evergreen whose prickly leaves will ward off intruders. For something a bit brighter, try Rose Glow, which has lovely copper and pink leaves, or Blackthorn, which blossoms in spring. Both can act as impenetrable yet stylish barriers.”

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