I am very bad at replying to comments and notes on this blog. I apologise for this – it’s not deliberate. Of course it’s great to hear feedback on this project, and be assured that even if your input seems to have vanished into a void, it has been read and registered. Blogs are used extensively across social media to boost rankings and provide a platform for marketing campaigns, and there is a certain irony in the fact that while marketing represents a good deal of my paid work, Working For Grouse is criminally under-developed and badly promoted. Perhaps I’d defend that by drawing a line between work and play, and suggesting that this blog is simply a labour of love – In a world of keywords and “Search Engine Optimisation”, I find it perversely refreshing to spin out a massive heap of largely inaccessible “content” for fun and fun alone.
I have written exhaustively about planting hedgerows for wildlife over the last few years, and I was pleased to receive recent feedback from a reader who had decided to follow my example on his own farm and was very satisfied with the results. Of course this is fantastic news, and I am deeply flattered to think that my work is being so closely followed. I must catch up with him properly soon and visit this hedge work in person.
Readers may remember the hedge I planted in 2013 which grew wonderfully and was cut earlier this year, despite my misgivings. Of course I understood that cutting back my hedgerow would help it expand and prosper, but there was something horribly counter-intuitive about “destroying” such a wealth of progress and growth. I could easily have cut the hedge in 2016, but my tentative instinct was to let things grow on as they were for another season. But the loppers came out in February, and I winced with every arduous snip.
Visiting yesterday, I was wholly reassured. The hedge has responded in a riot of new growth – the density and downright ferocity of the regeneration is a sight to behold, and on a warm, muggy Galloway afternoon, there was a wondrous drone of beetles, bees and insect life. Moths and froghoppers twinkled in the long grass, and rabbits made the seed heads rustle as I passed. A spotted flycatcher eyeballed me from the top of an uncut hawthorn stem, and a grasshopper warbler skittled away inside his new fortress. I deliberately planted a wealth of different species in this hedge, and it’s hard to see which has fared best. We planted oxeye daisies, raspberry canes and cornflowers, and these have been supplemented by glorious beds of nettles, docks and ragged robin.
The hedge serves as a staggering contrast to the close-cropped sheep pastures on either side, and as it continues to mature under close management, I grow ever more confident that this 200 yard strip of planting is the single best investment I’ve made on the farm in seven years. I can’t wait to see how other hedges I’ve worked on in the intervening years will mature, and I look forward to the accumulative benefit they should provide for a whole manner of wildlife. Crucially, this work knits conservation into agriculture at a crucial moment for both, and perhaps examples like mine will soon become more relevant.