Hedging Our Bets

Hedgerows are enormously helpful to wildlife. They provide food and shelter, both from predators and the weather, for many species and lots of these species will be using the hedgerow as their home as well. Hedges also form protected wildlife highways, connecting populations that might otherwise become isolated. Bats use them as flight paths to commute along between their roosts and feeding areas. Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species are those that have been identified as requiring conservation action because they have declined rapidly in recent years and there are 130 of them that are known to be significantly associated with hedgerows.

The meadows here are surrounded by hedgerow – we have 630 metres of it.  However, some of it is badly overgrown:

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The run of hedgerow along the cliff has been neglected for many years and is now heavily swamped by Ivy. Although Ivy berries, produced on mature Ivy like this, are a valuable food source in late winter when everything else has gone, this is not a healthy state for the hedgerow to be in. The evergreen Ivy provides resistance to the wind and some of this section of the hedgerow gets blown down every winter.

Other parts of the hedgerow are more healthy. Before we started managing the land, the upper stretch was routinely heavily cut back every year. We have been growing it higher and deeper so that it provides much more food and shelter.

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The upper hedgerow with the very wide base that it has these days.

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We have decided to plant a new 85 metre hedge this winter – a mixture of native hedging: Hawthorn, Dog Rose, Field Maple, Hornbeam, Beech, Dogwood, Hazel, Spindle and Crabapple. Blackthorn is not being included because there is a lot of that in the rest of the hedgerow and we are fed up with its suckering.

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Preparing the ground for the new stretch of hedgerow in the second meadow. It is near the Slow Worm refuges – Slow Worms also really like hedgerows.
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Getting the mulch to the site at the crack of dawn this morning. Depressingly, it was raining but it cheered up later.
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600 bare-rooted hedging whips. 600! 
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Sorting the trees so that there is the right mixture in each bag and then one bag will be planted per 10 metres of hedge. Don’t worry – we will reuse all of those plastic bags.
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The landscape gardener who is doing the hard work recommends using this mulch, peat free and made from grass and bark.
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Getting the mulch bags in position
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Starting to dig.
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Progress being made

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In the event, the light was gone from the day before the job was completed. The trees that are not yet planted were heeled in and work will recommence next weekend. We have decided to invest in a trickle watering system that will run along the length of the hedge over this coming summer to give these 600 new plants the best possible chance of survival while they establish their root systems.

The buzzards are still sitting in the agricultural field on the approach to the wood.

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They have also been appearing on the cameras in the wood as well:

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There has been this male Sparrowhawk, no doubt drawn to the area by the birds coming to the feeders just above this camera

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And the Tawny is hunting for worms at night, although I wish it would come a bit closer to the camera:

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And there is this beauty as well. I love her paw, very characteristically held out flat in front of her, Badger-style. She looks so myopic:

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At home we have had work done on the Aga because one of the cylinders needed to be replaced. The old one then sat outside the back door for ages waiting to be taken down to the recycling centre.

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But it was fortunate that we had delayed because we eventually thought outside the box and realised that it would be fantastic in the wood.

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Coppicing work is continuing – at quite a slow rate but the whole feel of this part of the wood is now much lighter and more airy

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Still much more to be done but never have my arms and shoulders had so much exercise.

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A different part of the wood, away from the Hazel coppice.

As a member of the Red Mason Bee Guardian Scheme, I was sent 50 Bee cocoons in March to hatch out into Bees and let them fly in the meadows gathering pollen.

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By the end of spring, the Bees reach the end of their lives but only after first nesting in the cardboard tubes that I am also sent.

In September, I returned 53 completed nest tubes to the Guardian Scheme:

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They have now advised me of what they found when they processed these 53 tubes: 184 Red Mason Bees cocoons and 24 Blue Mason Bee cocoons. That is 4 healthy cocoons per tube. Blue Mason Bees block the tunnel entrance off with leaves rather than the mud of Red Mason Bees – I had thought that these were Leafcutter Bee tunnels, so that was a surprise.

In 2018 I only sent them 45 completed tubes but they contained 342 healthy Red Mason Bee cocoons –  this is 7.6 cocoons per tube. So the 2019 results of 4 cocoons per tube represents quite a deterioration in productivity.  Perhaps the weather conditions were less favourable or perhaps predators have caught on to the fact that there are so many Mason Bees around and are accumulating in the area. We will have to see what 2020 brings.

We have a birding scope which has a more powerful lens than my biggest camera lens and we have finally got round to purchasing an adapter so that photos can be taken through the scope using a phone – Digiscoping.

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Taking a photo of a Border Force vessel out at sea.

Here are the resulting photos:

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This is at high tide. Note the waves breaking over the Goodwin Sands behind the ship.

We are really pleased with these results and so stand by your beds for many more photos taken out to sea that will now be included on this blog!

Meanwhile, the photographic experiment of the stone pinnacle continues…

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The Stone Pinnacle

It’s true that it does look much improved with a Fox topknot:

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But it looks even better when they visit at first light and we get to see them in colour:

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