Our rangers recommend...
The ranger team share their top tips for exploring the Skyline each month.
The ranger team and volunteers have recently been laying a hedge alongside the cyclepath on Claverton Down. This hedge was planted around 10 years ago, and is at the ideal stage in its life for laying for the first time.
It will be laid again in some 9 years, and until then won’t require any hedge cutting, so the wildlife will benefit from all the blossoms and berries.
Over time hedges become tired and begin to look unsightly and are difficult to maintain. They develop very poor weak growth, open up at the bottom, become top heavy and no longer can they be expected to provide a haven for wildlife.
Hedges which are trimmed every year may look in reasonable condition, but the blossoms and berries will not be able to grow. This is because second year growth of woody material is required for this to happen. Laid hedges provide a wildlife haven for small animals and birds and windbreak shelter for livestock. By laying a hedge new growth is promoted from the ground keeping it healthy and thick for years to come. Any hedge whether in a garden or field can be laid.
Tens of thousands of hedgerows were removed from the mid-20th century onwards as a result of grants aimed at increasing agricultural efficiency. Many remaining hedges have been savagely trimmed, neglected or affected by drifting agricultural chemicals ('spray drift'). The best way to manage hedges for wildlife is to lay them – left unmanaged they turn into lines of trees, while hard annual trimming results in thin, gappy hedges that support little in the way of wildlife.
Hedgelaying is best carried out in late winter, before the nesting season and when most berries have been eaten. However, it is a time-consuming activity, and we carry this work out with the enthusiastic help of our volunteer teams.