Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Hedging Bets

No, nothing to do with managing pooled investment funds or the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Recently there was an interesting thread on Twitter about hedge management, this one:

To be honest, for many of us with a vested interest in hedgerows as habitat for birds, mammals and invertebrates there was nothing new or revelatory. But it was good to see some perspective for others who may be less aware. It boils down to this - lots of people get massively upset when hedgerows are cut, in the belief that leaving them unfettered would be better. The truth is somewhere in between: leave a hedgerow to grow without management and it will become a bunch of trees with less density at the lower level, and over time those trees thin out and the hedge loses structure, so rotational cutting is beneficial. The flip side is that cutting too regularly, at the same level or too harshly will also damage the hedgerow, with loss of fruiting potential and again loss of structure over time. Hedgerows need to be carefully and sensitively managed, with cutting on a two or three year cycle, not to the same height and using appropriate machinery.

But, I would happily bet a large sum that the vast majority of hedgerows are badly managed and trashed, hence the regular consternation from people not impressed by cutting. I think that the problem is that most hedgerows that people see border fields and farmland, and they are managed by farmers who just see the hedgerow as a cheap means of partitioning land and segregating fields from roadways and people. They are not managed sensitively with the benefits of a hedgerow to wildlife in mind.

The hedgerows down the lane here are classic examples of being badly managed. They are cut every year (at least once, sometimes twice). They are cut to around the same height and width, leaving trashed stems and scar knuckles. The hedges are losing structure and density, don't offer much blossom/fruit and are in desperate need of rejuvenation. Here are some examples from this week (hedges were cut in mid-January) ....

Even if they were managed better, the hedgerows along here are lacking in diversity. They are mainly hawthorn and Ulmus sp., and other shrubs are few and far between. Within the hedges are a few trees, and the odd sapling that will never amount to much as they are cut the same. Believe it or not, the middle image above shows a group of Goat Willows ....

I'm sure I'll get some shots of these hedges through the year for comparison.

I've been mulling over a couple of twigs that I brought home on Wednesday. Both feature some sort of micro-fungi, but so far I've not got anywhere with putting names to them and I've given up for now.

Bumpy bits on hogweed stems

Spotty bits on burdock stems

Finally, here's a couple from the moth trap last night:
Twin-spotted Quaker

Diurnea fagella

I've got a few things to get done over the weekend, but hopefully I'll be able to get out at some point before my next chemo cycle starts on Monday.


Gibster said...

I was glad to see what I presume was an activist group draping mesh netting over hedges, even whole trees upon occasion, presumably as a deterrent to the awful ravages of the mechanical flail. Thank goodness our hedges and their associated wildlife are in such safe hands..............

Gibster said...

Ah! The 'click on the pictures' thingy has gone, excellent!

Skev said...

Yes, we had the dreaded nets down the lane a few years agobwhen they were about to cut through and construct a service road for expanding the estate. They probably needn't have bothered as the hedgerow is so poor.
I've had to identify traffic lights and bicycle to post this so don't get too excited!