Monday, 10 November 2014

Hedges

Our farm lies about three miles outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary.   In many ways this is a good thing because we get all the benefits of the beautiful scenery without the restraints regarding planning etc., which apply within the Park.

Once you get into the Park (which stretches from Wensley in the East through to Sedbergh in the West) almost every field boundary is a dry stone wall - a huge feature of the area and made, of course, because it is the indigenous material and therefore was cheap in the days when these walls were built (now they cost the earth to rebuild when one falls down and one has to employ a dry-stone-waller).

We do have dry stone walls on many of our field boundaries, but we do also have hedges.   I love the walls - they are home to rabbits and stoats and weasels in the Winter time when the ground may be frozen or flooded and they also house a great number of mosses and ferns.   But I do also love our hedges.

We have some which have been let grow so that the hedges are almost trees, and some which are kept short.   We need this short, thick hedge in order to keep the sheep in during the Winter.   There is nothing sheep like more than pushing through 'flimsy' hedging and moving into pastures new.

But what is most interesting about these hedges is the wealth of different, species to be found in them.   Most of our hedges are a good mix of hawthorn (good berries for birds in winter), blackthorn (sloes for wine and also impenetrable because of spiky stems, holly (berries for Christmas if the birds leave them long enough), field maple (lovely leaf-colour in the Autumn), hazel (some years lots of nuts and therefore lots of grey squirrels and ash saplings which throw up 'spikes' over the summer, only for these to be cut down when the hedge-cutting man arrives - these plants, left to their own devices, will soon grow into small trees, crab apple (again these become trees and provide winter food for all kinds of wild life), with guelder rose, dog rose and blackberry thrown in for good measure. Judging from the number of species it is safe to estimate that the older hedges have been there for four or five hundred years.  There was a 'fashion' for grubbing up hedges in some areas, to make bigger fields, but certainly on our farm this has not been the case.   Here and there are 'thinner' hedges, largely made up of hawthorn trees and crab apple trees - these the farmer calls 'cams' and says they were field hedges long ago, mostly long before his time and the fields have now been made into one larger field.

We also have a plantain which consists of some evergreens and a good stand of alders, along with a few fruit trees (apple and plum) which have been added over the years.

I have just started reading 'The Making of the English Landscape' by .W G Hoskins, which my son gave me for my birthday.  I do hope to learn more about hedges and stone walls before I finish it.
In the meantime I love speculating on who planted these hedges and what made them decide on particular species, and where did they get them from ?

There has been thick fog all day here today.   But I have just noticed out of the hall window that the late sun has broken through.   Here is a photo - not particularly good - makes me feel better about the approaching winter though - there is nothing worse than
a foggy day in November for making you dread the coming of winter.

22 comments:

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

If you should come across any books by Oliver Rackham on the British countryside they are excellent - though some are more easily read than others.

Mac n' Janet said...

Our country is so young it's hard to imagine hedges planted 4 of 5 hundred years ago. My husband, who is a very fussy reader, says your book sounds interesting so I'm going to look for a copy of it.

Cro Magnon said...

You photo may herald winter, but It's a beautiful sight. I believe Hawthorn was introduced by the Romans for hedging.

Philip said...

Hoskins book is the classic text on this fascinating subject. I can also recommend The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor which I think is even more interesting if your appetite is whetted by Hoskins. Great photo.

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Great photo. Foggy here last night and this morning, but clear again now. Can't say as I like the fog.

MorningAJ said...

Hedges are fascinating and I love to see a well maintained one, properly laid.

angryparsnip said...

What a interesting post today. I so enjoy reading about your farm.
Your photo of fog and sun is lovely.

cheers, parsnip

Heather said...

That tree is so beautiful in the fog. Here in the south west, many trees seem to be still in full green leaf while those which coloured early have lost most of their leaves. It is a strange autumn and likely to not be very colourful this year.
I am glad your farm has kept it's hedgerows and pleased to think that some may be so old.

Tom Stephenson said...

That photo looks highly erotic as a thumbnail, or is it just me?

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

That was a great post - I learned a lot about the hedges - thanks for sharing. I love the look of the rock walls from a distance too. Great tree shot - and indeed, winter is edging closer.

mrsnesbitt said...
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mrsnesbitt said...
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mrsnesbitt said...

Cold winter is forecast Pat!

Cloudia said...

Lovely words and startlingly wonderful photo!




ALOHA from Honolulu
ComfortSpiral
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rachel said...

I've alerted the hedge-loving Gardener to this post, as I know he will enjoy your description of what grows for you.....

The Weaver of Grass said...

A highly erotic tree photograph - oh dear Tom - surely not.
Thanks for calling in - glad you liked the photo and the hedge-description.

it's me said...

Loved learning about the stone walls and hedges. Your posts are always so informative.

thelma said...

Loved the photo, and Hoskin's Making of the English Landscape is excellent as well.
Hope it isn't too foggy when we come up to Whitby next week, almost had a car crash up on the moors in the fog..

Terry and Linda said...

Love this post...the British Countryside as only those who live there know...thank you for sharing!

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com/?s=The+Adventures+of+Fuzzy+and+Boomer&submit=Search
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

12Paws said...

On the contrary, your photo is lovely! Love the lesson on wall & hedges. Thanks for sharing.

Becca McCallum said...

Lovely photo! I like hedges too - we've got much the same in the hedges round our way as you have - although we've got beech too.

Totalfeckineejit said...

That's a beautiful photo.