Monday, 18 April 2016

hedging on mount owen, a natural history of the hedgerow by john wright

Cycled up Mount Owen on Sunday for the first time in a while.

Came across the hedge that I first photographed back in January 2012. At that stage just a short section had been laid but each year since another twenty yards and then another twenty have been done. This spring the whole stretch between the top and bottom gates has been completed. It is a beautiful work of art and craftsmanship.

Appropriately, after getting home and having a late breakfast I read a review in the Sunday Times of A Natural History of the Hedgerow: And ditches, dykes and dry stone walls by John Wright (Profile, 2016). The piece begins:

'How many species do you think can be found in a stretch of British hedgerow? In one survey of 90 metres in Devon, carried out in 2015, a naturalist found 2,070, with many more awaiting identification at the Natural History Museum. The final tally is likely to be about 4,000.'

Later there is a quotation from an Anglo-Saxon land deed defining the boundaries of an estate: 'The border of the estate runs "to crane pool, thence to thung [probably the poisonous hemlock water dropwort] pool, thence to king hill...thence along the stream as far as sand ford, thence to arse marsh’s head."' The reviewer adds: 'It leaves you simultaneously regretful at the loss of our cranes and thoughtful about what might be meant by “arse marsh’s head”.'

What isn't covered in the review but which I imagine will be discussed in the book is the value of traditional hedging like that above as opposed to the more usual flail cutting that bashes hedges to pieces and seems to lead to their gradual degradation.

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