Take a walk in Blue Bell Woods listen to the sounds around you, of bird song and bees. Smell the flowers and the scent of Spring in the air. Every year is a new beginning and every day a blessing

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Monday, March 12, 2012


This is a difficult subject because its so vast. I think that the hedgerow is unique to the British Isles in many ways. Yes other countries have hedges but not quite the same as there. Its a complex system that at one time covered the entire country with an intricate system of byways for the birds and animals of Great Britain. Its more complicated than just a hedge or fence to keep in livestock. It binds the land from one end to the other giving homes to hundreds of creatures that could not exist without them. It gives them a sort of highway system that they can live in and travel in with some sort of safety. As a child I fell in love with them. I did not live on a farm but I spent enough time on one to know how important the upkeep was. In the non growing seasons, when daily chores sort of wound down, the babies were all grown and the crops all in...........then the farmer would tend the ditches and hedges and make sure all was still in order.
Some hedgerows are hundreds of years old. Maybe more. They are not just willy nilly either they are created. At some point someone put thought into the construction of most of them. They consist of a base of earth and usually a ditch or bank depending upon the lay of the land. The ditches drained the fields and often joined up streams and ponds so that the fresh water creatures had habitat. Frogs and newts and other pond creatures could move around from pond to pond within the safety of the hedgerows. The banks would be a place for wildflowers to grow and thrive while the hedges provided nesting places for song birds and mice. They are full of brambles and wild fruits. They also contain trees that provide shade for cattle or deer.
The rabbits burrow and so will the voles. Hedgehogs live within the dense undergrowth and foxes too.
The structure of the hedge protects the fields from erosion. No dust bowls here.
Repairs are made to fill holes in the base so that cattle can not get out. Its a skill that can not be lost. Much like thatching a roof, once the skills are lost then life will never be the same.
Some creatures just will not survive if the hedgerows are lost

There is a vast variety of shrubs and trees that make up a typical hedge. Hawthorn is one, when constructing and maintaining the use of the field needs to be considered. You do not want to put your cows in a field where they will eat their way out. Hawthorn and Blackthorn are as they say, thorny. In May they are beautiful to behold when in bloom. Hazel is another common hedgerow staple.Holly, Beech, Oak, Ash and Elm were all traditional. The hedges have to also be kept at a certain height and the cutting serves to strengthen them. Pollarding is a technique that is useful. You will also find vines, Ivy, Blackberry,nut and fruit trees and wild roses. That is to say nothing of the beautiful flowers like Violets and Primroses that grow on the banks. I could go on and on, it was a childhood pleasure looking for nests among the hedges in our countryside. Back then I guess I thought that it all came naturally and I suppose to some extent a lot of the hedgerows are so old that they have taken on an existence of their own.

1 comment:

Tracey@Breathing English Air said...

I find it interesting when we travel to other parts of the country to see the differences in the hedgerows. I remember being stuck in a traffic jam in Cornwall and looking out at the wild flowers in the hedges, and they were quite different to the ones found in our area. Where husband is from in Devon they are very tall and almost meet across the narrow lanes. You feel like you are driving in a tunnel.