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Hedge fun

by Rod Kebble

Well, if you’ve read the end of the post for the working party of 7th January, it turns out that Brian Lavers and Mike Clear were both right. The volunteers were to plant a 50-metre hedge today and, yes, the total length will eventually be some 200 metres, finishing just short (because a drain gets in the way) of the farmyard post-and-rail fencing the volunteers erected in 2009.

Countryside Restoration Trust farmer Mike Clear demonstrates his robust style of digging.

Farmer Mike Clear demonstrates his robust approach to digging.

Twelve volunteers turned out on a cold and very windy January morning to be briefed. Mike had obtained 250 plants (plus a few spares) from a local nursery, to be planted in two rows at an interval of five to the metre in an alternating pattern of three in the back row and two in the front, reversed in the next metre, and so on.

Around sixty percent of the plants were blackthorn, with the remainder made up of a mix of hawthorn, field maple, dog rose and hazel. Future harvests of sloes, rosehips and nuts are therefore already being anticipated, though it is expected that — as usual and as is intended — the birds will beat us to it.

The professionals favoured just digging a slit...

The professionals — Mike and hersdman Tony Timmis and those trained at Merrist Wood — starting at the drive end favoured just digging a slit...



...while the amateur volunteers starting at the dairy end preferred digging the full hole.

...while the amateur volunteers starting at the dairy end preferred digging the full hole. Fisticuffs were avoided but it will be interesting to see later if the hedging plants demonstrate a preference.

Our recently-acquired Merrist Wood students were again in attendance and acting on their advice we planted the back row of mainly blackthorn.

A Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer fetches water from the pond fed by rainwater from the roof of the dairy.

Margaret Ashdown fetching water from the pond, which is fed by rainwater from the roof of the dairy.



A Countryside Restoration Trust volunteer with a barrow-full of mulch.

Margaret in action again, this time delivering mulch. The wheelbarrow worked a lot better after she pumped up the tyre.

The method was to dig a hole and insert the plant, then hammer in a bamboo support cane and wrap a spiral plastic guard around plant and cane, to protect against rabbits — deer not usually venturing this close to the dairy. Then water the plant and lastly cover its base with some mulch. Compost not being available, alleged five year-old silage was used, though some of it looked suspiciously like the results of mucking-out…

Countryside Restorarion Trust volunteers nearing the end of the job. For now.

CRT volunteer Jim Cane (with spade and a superior air) demonstrates the art of delegation.

A division of labour spontaneously developed and the above order of things went slightly by the board in that the waterers overtook the other trades, with the result that the people winding the guards round canes and plants found themselves kneeling in a freshly-delivered puddle.

A view of the newly-planted hedge below the Countryside Restoration Trust's award-winning dairy.

After lunch and when all the work had been done, the sun deigned to come out and shine on the newly-planted hedge below the dairy...



...and along the drive towards the cattle grid. The next working party should take the hedge beyond the grid and round the corner to the farmyard.

However, the rain held off and by lunchtime the hedge had reached its destination for the day, just short of the cattle grid (a gap has to be left in order to reach the other side of the hedge without going back to the start). For the statistically-minded, this means that 250 plants went through the whole process in four hours, a creditable rate of one every 57.6 seconds.

It is to be hoped that the morning’s work will, literally, bear fruit in the coming months.

A close-up of some of the new plants, complete with support cane, rabbit guard and mulch.

A close-up of some of the new plants, complete with support cane, rabbit guard and mulch.