I’m a huge believer in hedgerows. Regular readers will recall the work I’ve put in to plant new hedges over the past decade, and I can hardly overstate the value of this labour when it comes to wildlife. A good hedge can be a world of its own, and hedgerow creation is a worthy job, however you spin it. It’s a constant pleasure to revisit hedges I have planted over the last decade, and every year seems to bring some new angle or benefit for wildlife.
Even a bad hedge is better than nothing at all. Many of the hedges I knew as a child were tall, leggy and ancient. They’d lain without management for almost half a century, and by the time I came to them they had risen into rows of lank, leggy hawthorn trees. Sheep drifted easily between the gaps, but hawthorn is always a good tree in itself. The haws were raided by redwings and fieldfares, and the blossom was a source of tremendous excitement to the local bees.
Footloose and idle after leaving school, I turned my eye to a three hundred yard section of old hedge. I was not trusted with a chainsaw, so I cut the whole hedge down to the roots with a handsaw and fenced off the remnants to protect the regeneration. This was seventeen years ago, and I can now report that many of the old trees were too far gone to recover. They died and left mouldering stumps in their wake but most have leaped back into prosperity and now require active management. By patching the gaps, coppicing the regeneration and bending the whole mess back into something like order, I can really start to see the benefits of a good hedge in an area of relatively bald open country.
Even a cursory glance reveals that this hedge is already doing good. When I passed by last week, it was filled with tits and dunnocks, voles and a gurly old hare – but how much more it will have to offer when I’m finished with it.