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Shoots of spring, native hedge and wildlife area plantings

Date posted: Monday 8th February 2021

Shoots of spring, native hedge and wildlife area plantings

The Beast from the East 2 has been blowing snow flurries around for the past two days and it’s been bitterly cold. Before that it’s been incredibly wet with what felt like more rain than we’ve seen for ages, and the site roads have become fords in places.

But there are signs of spring all around in the spring bulbs shooting up. Under my old apple tree on the back plot the snowdrops and hellebores are attracting the odd bee that ventures out in the milder, cloudy weather we’ve had for the past couple of weeks or so.

I haven’t so far succumbed to the wilder extravagances that lead ‘galantophiles’ to spend small fortunes on specialist snowdrop varieties, although I did buy ‘Handel’ and ‘Sir Edward Elgar’ at RHS Wisley a couple of weeks ago – they know their key market demographics! But I couldn’t resist ‘Jenny’s Pearl’!

Meanwhile two new crab apple trees have been planted in the fruit tree restoration project headed up by Ruth Walker (CFT – Conservation Fruit Trees). They are ‘Butterball’, with bright rounded yellow fruits that will make a lovely zing of colour and provide for the birds and jelly for the jam-makers in years to come.

The native deciduous hedge planted by Andrew Saunders with help from others over 12 years ago is probably the longest in the Borough and the laying is slowly being rolled out. This is what Andrew has written as update information about the hedge: In 2008 the planting of a hedge was completed along the back of the plots in front of the chestnut trees along Church Grove Passage. The hedge is composed of a number of native species, blackthorn, hawthorn, field maple etc. The intention was threefold; a screen across the backs of the plots to hide them from view, to form a physical barrier and to support bird and other wildlife. In 2015, the section at the Church end was mature enough to lay, a traditional technique which thickens the base of the hedge with new growth Three further sections were laid, the last in winter 2019/20 by volunteers from TCV based in Richmond. Some sections have done better than others. The more vigorous sections have been trimmed with a hedge cutter to head height, this will be repeated each winter. Sections doing poorly will be planted with additional whips this winter. There is still a length still to be laid, now quite mature, hopefully at the end of this year, COVID allowing. At the same time as the hedge was planted, an area next door to plot 18, close to the wall and backing onto the nature area and the bee hives, was planted up with hazel saplings for coppicing. These are now producing a regular crop of bean poles and pea sticks for sale or for defraying the cost of the hedge laying stakes and binders.

Jem and I have put in three new blackthorn around the wildlife area, in the anticipation of sloe gin eventually and meanwhile providing that lovely early blossom for the bees in the beehives and their solitary bees and bumbles cousins.