The laid mixed species hedge

Over the weekend of 17 & 18 November, members of RGCG and local volunteers laid the first of the green's two hedges under the expert tuition of hedge-layer Malcolm Dowling.

The hedge runs along the back of the properties on St Oswald's Road, and was planted in the winter of 2011-12. It has been left to grow until it was suitable to lay, and at 7 years, had reached peak condition for this. Below is an autumnal picture of the hedge just before it was laid. The hedge is a rich mixture of traditional hedgerow plants: holly, hazel, hawthorn, guelder and dog rose, wayfarer tree and spindle. It also contains wych elm, elm, goat willow, ash, a pyracantha and a flowering cherry.

The rich species mix in the hedge is best appreciated close up.

Below, pictures of the newly laid hedge taken from the middle of its length. Hedges are laid uphill, as branches (or "pleachers") need to be laid at an upward angle to the ground so that the sap will rise. The opposing directions in which the pleachers were laid reflect the contours of the green behind St Oswald's Road.

While a hedge looks startling immediately after it has been laid, the trees will sprout vigorously from next spring. Laying a hedge stops it from becoming thin at the base, and encourages dense growth near to the ground. It was for this reason hedges were traditionally laid as field boundaries: thick hedges prevented livestock from escaping into neighbouring fields. A laid hedge is far superior to a row of trees for wildlife, as the regenerating cover near to the ground and the thick network of laid and sprouting branches provide much better habitat for many types of animals, including small mammals, invertebrates and birds. It also enourages the trees in the hedge to live longer.

More pictures of the days' work are here.