Thursday, 20 November 2014

South & West Wilts Hunt hedge laying competition

By way of a change from the South of England style, here is a link to a slide show of photos from the recent South & West Wilts Hunt hedge laying competition. Some great work here with the use of crooks and bonds.

Open the link and click on View Slideshow.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Scotney Castle - second visit

Back at Scotney Castle on Saturday, for the second visit with SEHLS. After the rain we have experienced over the last couple of weeks the ground is saturated and all vehicles had to be left in the car parks. The field next to the hedge was very wet and swishy underfoot but fortunately did not turn completely to mud around the hedge itself. We were working on the second section of the hedge that we started on our last visit in October but this section had a different structure and content, being a mix of Hawthorn and Hazel with one or two other species occurring randomly throughout. There was some self seeded rose and oddly one or two spindly Beech saplings.

I took the first cant which meant no laying off - don't know why this was left by those who arrived before me, as it was no better or worse than the other cants. I just had to undo some of the binding from the end of the previously laid section and start laying straight into the existing stakes - bonus! 

As it rained on and off for most of the day I didn't take as many photos as I had intended.

You can see from the photo below that the hedge had been allowed to grow up uncut but had recently - possibly last year - been flailed at about eight feet. This combined with the grazing of the sides of the hedge by the Sussex cattle meant that there were a lot of sturdy stems but not much side or top growth...

...and you can see it was much the same all down the hedge, although it was rather thin under the conifer (Scots Pine?) at the far end.

Looking down the hedge you get an impression of the species mix and density of the stems. On the right is a large Hawthorn with a 5-6 inch base and a lot of side stems, and on the left a Hazel stool with half a dozen straight poles and no side growth. What I did was to remove most of the large Hawthorn and lay the smaller stems in front and behind this, then lay most of the Hazel - but I did take out a couple of the straight poles for use as stakes.

In this shot you can see that one of the earlier large Hawthorns (right of centre) has been much reduced and laid. The sides look and bit bare for South of England style at this point but there was just sufficient material coming up to cover most of the pleachers.

A bit later...

By the time we got to the staking and binding stage the rain had cleared and the sun was out. Quite pleased with my finished cant and with the fact that, although hedges like this can be a struggle, you get the satisfaction that the hedge is rejuvenated and remodelled, which has has many benefits for wildlife, as well as improving the appearance and making the hedge easier to manage in future; and on this note I found, in my cant, what one of the NT wardens identified as a disused Dormouse nest just off the ground in a Hazel stool.

This last shot is looking up the two sections of hedge with binding in progress.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Cherkley Court

Last Saturday saw SHG at Cherkley Court for the first of three session this season. The house, gardens and estate once belonged to Lord Beaverbrook but are now being turned into an exclusive hotel, spa and golf course.

After several days of sunshine and heavy showers the day dawned dry and bright and the previous nights forecast indicated a mostly dry day. However, this was not to be the case and the showers soon arrived and remained with us for the rest of the session.

As you can see from the shot below the hedge is a maiden of some ten or so years; mostly Hawthorne with the odd rose, Field Maple and other species mixed in. Conveniently located alongside an internal roadway with the golf course taking shape in the background - the chalk subsoil showing clearly through the hedge.

There was a bit of discussion as to the species of the trees in the foreground. These had Hawthorne-like berries but noticeably larger, and sizeable spines on the branches, but the leaves did not resemble the native Hawthorn at all. It would appear that these are Cockspur Thorn (Crataegus persimilis 'Prunifolia'), although they have a more upright stance than most of the on-line descriptions and illustrations suggest but perhaps the crowns had been 'lifted' through judicious pruning.

It was decided that we would lay 100 yards in this first session and as the turnout was very good we put two cutters into each cant of about 10 yards. Although we all cut with hand tools, the size of the stems, ease of access to the hedge and lack of any entanglements in the crown, meant that very good progress was made and here my partner for the session Dick and I are about half way through laying.

As the cutters in the early cants finished laying the staking and binding teams got to work...

...and it didn't take long to complete the 100 yards. The stake-line looks slightly off-centre in the shot below. It was down the centre of the stems, however the post and rail fence on the right obstructs the tucking-in and pruning of that side of the hedge to some degree. Despite the recent rain the stakes were very hard to drive into the chalk, which here is only a few inches below the surface.

The last shot is of the cant that Dick and I laid. The safety barrier and chalk subsoil in the background detract somewhat but we understand that the rough and semi-rough on the golf course will be reinstated with native downland species, so in a few years it should be much improved.