Notes from an award winning Farm – Hedgerow Trees

Notes from an award winning Farm – Hedgerow Trees

Hedgerow Oaks at The OaksHedgerow Oaks at The Oaks

The farm had more hedgerow elms than any other kind of hedgerow tree put together. All were lost in the Seventies due to the disease Dutch Elm. This prompted a determined effort to replace them, both by marking and saving natural saplings, and planting others to supplement what others provided.

For two decades our hedges have been allowed to grow taller and wider, and natural saplings have come up through them. Each length of hedge is inspected before cutting and young trees marked with white plastic ribbon so as to be clearly visible when cutting.

Once clear of the hedge, young trees are allowed to grow for several years until well established. They are then side pruned, or thinned if too close together. Side pruning is necessary to promote good shape, avoid heavy shading of the hedge, and prevent side branches obstructing farm machinery or passing traffic.

Dense sucker elm has occurred in several places. Young ash, oak, field maple and wych elm also occur naturally. We allow a few hawthorn, blackthorn and holly to grow on and form small trees to give additional blossom and berry. They are particularly colourful and effective in spring and autumn.

We plant additional oak, ash, field maple, rowan, whitebeam (S. Wilfred Fox) and holly and the occasional wild cherry, wild crab or walnut. We have also scattered hundreds of acorns in newly planted hedgerows – but have very few young oaks to show for it.

When we plant we try to ensure a mix of species, particularly among young elm, and an eventual natural clump effect. Where possible we minimise shading of the crop by favouring trees in hedges running north –south rather than east-west or along south sides of roads and tracks. We link hedgerow trees to other wildlife features where appropriate, particularly in field corners where hedges can be allowed to grow taller towards the junction.

This will have a big impact on the landscape and the effect on wildlife is significant. More species of bird nest in summer and forage in winter, and greater number of butterflies and other insects is noticeable. This effect will steadily increase.

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