Worth mentioning a brutally sharp and skin-ripping session cutting the new hedgerow I planted in 2013. Now with four growing seasons under its belt, the hedge has exceeded all expectations in terms of producing shelter and food for wildlife, and I have been really encouraged by the growth of experimental species like guelder rose and field maple, neither of which I ever pegged for “upland” plants. Before I lopped them down to knee height, many of the hawthorns had grown to seven feet tall on single, columnar twigs, and one or two were almost two inches in diameter at the base. The project took two hours, but I now hope that 2017’s growth will be an awful lot “hedgier” and dense.
Given that this is never going to be a functioning agricultural boundary in its own right, I have allowed two or three hawthorns to grow on up into trees, and I hope that this might add some further interest and variety to the project. I managed to plant fifteen tree and shrub species in a two hundred metres long fenced enclosure, and it has turned out to be one of the most fascinating and worthwhile projects I have undertaken on the Chayne so far. This project (as with everything else on the hill) was paid for from our own pockets, and perhaps that increases the level of satisfaction to see it prospering. I still live for the day when I find black grouse feeding on the haws, but enthusiastic use by buntings and partridges suggest that the benefits are broader and more immediate than this ultimate goal.
Hedges are at the forefront of my mind at the moment as I dip in and out of John Wright’s superb book A Natural History of the Hedgerow – more on this to come in due course, but needless to say that I am currently inspired to start laying old hedges and planting new ones across most of Galloway.