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A tale of two hedges

by Rod Kebble

The hedge planting begun in January has at last been finished and blossom is beginning to appear on the new plants, particularly the hazel and the hawthorn.

The last of the plants have been used to fill gaps in the hedge planted in Reeds Left Field in November 2007, caused by plants failing to thrive there. As was mentioned in an earlier post, this hedge has never really taken off because it was planted under trees in dry soil and where rabbits are very active.

CRT volunteers Ann Bates and Marilyn Cane refused to give up on this hedge and have put in a lot of effort to source and fit some 900 or so 2-litre plastic drink bottles to replace the plant guards which appeared to be hindering growth — the spiral guards were meant to have expanded as plants grew but instead seem to have acted as straitjackets. Ann also made some wire guards when plastic bottles were in short supply.

Plant guards made from plastic bottles and wire by Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers Ann Bates and Marilyn Cane.

Plant guards made by Ann Bates and Marilyn Cane from wire and from plastic bottles. While admitting light, they are less constrictive than the guards originally fitted.

(The field is used as part of the site of the annual Weyfest music festival — this year on 31st August-2nd September — but when Ann turned up after last year’s event, hoping to find lots of abandoned bottles, she found the site had already been thoroughly cleaned and cleared. Thanks and a big “well done” to all concerned, even if Ann was disappointed in her quest.)

It was decided to put the new plants along the western side of the field, where there are fewer trees. Inspection of the existing plants showed that quite a few had died but that the remainder were showing signs of life.

Countryside Restoration Trust volunteers Ann Bates and Brian Sams planting in Reeds Left Field at Pierrepont Farm.

Ann Bates and Brian Sams planting in Reeds Left Field. Many of the white plant guards have become brittle and snapped off, so that they too are shorter than when they were first installed.

A closer look suggested that the existing plastic guards were too short to prevent rabbits nibbling at any growth that showed its head above the top so that, as one volunteer put it, “the plants are shorter than when we put them in”. We now hope to replace the existing guards with ones which are taller (and easier to obtain than discarded plastic bottles).

It was because of the problems in Reeds Left Field that the plants bought for the hedge below the new dairy were older and taller than those purchased in 2007.

If those we planted in Reeds Left are able to flourish, then the next task will be to see if they can repeat their success on the northern edge of the field, beneath the trees.

Taller plant guards along the western side of Reeds Left Field at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm.

A mixture of old and new planting along the western side of Reeds Left Field. The taller and darker guards are the new type with which it is hoped to replace the short ones.

Much will depend on whether there are meaningful amounts of rain this spring — the heavy rain forecast for much of the day we were planting turned out to be of short duration and would have made little difference to the soil.

Update 23rd March: This article has been corrected to include Marilyn Cane’s name, which was inadvertently omitted in the original post. Sorry, Marilyn!