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(H)edging upwards

by Rod Kebble

Ray Ashdown, Ann Bates and Margaret Ashdown planting the new hedge along the north side of the field in on a sunny Saturday November 2007.

(l-r) Ray Ashdown, Ann Bates and Margaret Ashdown planting the new hedge along the north side of the field in November 2007 (photo: Joan Foster).

In November 2007, the conservation volunteers began planting a hedge along the north and west sides of Reeds Left Field. The soil is sandy and along the north side the hedge plants compete for water with a line of trees that also act as umbrellas, stopping the plants from receiving rainwater.

The plants were encased in plastic spirals, to protect them from rabbits and deer. Unfortunately, it turned out that these particular protectors were intended for use with trees and prevented the young hedge plants from growing properly.

Needless to say, the hedge did not thrive — many plants died and have had to be replaced.

In June 2011 we reported that Ann Bates and Marilyn Cane had hit on the idea of replacing the spirals with 2-litre plastic drinks bottles, with the ends removed. This resulted in the plants putting on more growth — but then the bottles were found to again be contsricting further development and also tended to cook the plants in hot weather.

In 2013, Ann spotted a skip (dumpster) in the corner of the field, filled with sections of green plastic mesh. She made enquiries and found it had been put there by our neighbours the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). No, they said, they had no further use for it as it had done the job it had been bought to do, and, yes, Ann would be doing them a favour by finding another use for it.

Plants in the new mesh guards showing greater growth than those in a couple of the plastic bottles that the mesh is replacing.

The new plastic mesh guards and a couple of the plastic bottles they have replaced.

So Ann and Marilyn began the long job of replacing the plastic bottles with taller plant guards made from cutting the plastic mesh into smaller pieces — fortunately, further supplies became available from the same source. Thank you, RSPB!

The hedge plants — which include hawthorn, acer, hazel and blackthorn (the latter doing least well) — have begun to put on height, so much so that Ray Ashdown has had to trim them to encourage the lower parts to ‘bush out’. Those plants under the trees are still lagging behind their colleagues on the western edge of the field but, thanks to Marilyn and Ann, at last there are signs that the hedge might survive after all.

Still at it! Ann Bates hammers in stakes along the west side of the field in August 2014.

Still at it! Ann Bates hammers in stakes along the west side of the field in August 2014.