January 2014 : News from the Park: What is happening about the hedgerows?

You may have noticed the changes to the old hedgerow by the tennis courts in Stratton Park.

What is the purpose?

A hedgerow once established does need to be maintained – nothing comes for free.  If managed properly a hedgerow will last for  500 years.  If neglected it will end up looking like our hedgerow. Our  hedge was planted in the 19th century, we are not sure when, definitely  after 1790 and possibly as late as  1890.

Right up to the 19th century a hedgerow was created to mark a boundary -  a field boundary  or a property boundary. This is in the days before barbed wire and electric cattle fencing , so  a hedge was  created with prickly shrubs -  hawthorn and blackthorn which discouraged cattle from pushing through. To  remain effective the hedge needed to  be maintained regularly by trimming  the top and sides or it would develop gaps. The hedge row would be created by digging two  small parallel ditches with the earth  piled up between them,. The bank would then be planted with hawthorns, interspersed with hazel, crab apple, blackthorn, elder and field maple. The 19th century practice was then to plant  young English hardwoods at intervals -  ash, elm, beech and oak.

The individual English hardwood trees along a hedgerow can last  up to 300 years having reached maturity  in 100 – 150 years, after which they are in decline and will gradually  decay. New  replacement hardwoods can be planted but they will struggle  because the  ground is already  colonised by the roots of the other  trees and bushes on the hedge line.

The  constituents of the hedge itself will last hundreds of years if managed properly –  trimmed or layed to keep it compact. Hedgerow shrubs differ from trees in that they do not develop just one main stem but many stems from the base, and indeed are happy to  keep generating new stems if  the older ones are cut back. Again ,unlike a tree, they  cannot support  growth above  15 – 20 feet tall.

The technique of laying involves cutting much of the growth back to the ground and partially cutting through the main upright healthy branches at base leaving just 30 % of the  thickness of each still in place. The  branch is then bent over to a 45% angle or more and held down by stakes and  hazel  bindings.. This sounds  very drastic but done properly the hedge is rejuvenated and will  grow and  prosper for another  30 – 40 years before needing renovation again.

A newly layed hedge






A rejuvenated hedge layed a few years previously



If however the hedge  shrubs are allowed to  just grow unchecked for  40 – 50 years they will become to old and too stiff to be layed in this way. Even worse, if the sides of the hedge are trimmed back regularly but  the top is allowed to continue to grow upwards, the hawthorn, the main element in the hedge,  will grow to 10 – 15 feet tall, become over mature and then decay and fall over.

That is what has happened with our hedge.- it is too old to lay and too old to  cut back to a hedge shape.

In the longer term, as sections die and fall ,  partial regeneration by cutting back to base  and some new planting  is our best option. This is what has happened at the southern end of the hedge nearest the Car Park. Of the 5 original hawthorn roots in this section 3 had fallen and  on close inspection one other was completely decayed – held up only by the ivy on it. The decision was taken to  reduce all 5  shrubs  to their root bases and cut back the rose briar and other small shrubs at the side of the stumps. To keep the hedgerow line and  offer a rich habitat for invertebrates etc.  much of the material has been retained in a ‘dead hedge’ . Some of the roots below this material may regenerate and sprout new growth over the next two years – but this is not guaranteed from such decayed roots -  we will have to wait and see.

Meanwhile new young hawthorn and hazel shrubs will be planted along side the  dead hedging and in 15 years we may  well have a young and thriving new hedge -  but only if it is properly maintained.

Further along the hedgerow  we have blocked  some of the gaps up so that  young shrubs can grow to eventually fill the spaces, leaving  3 main walk-throughs. for park users. Young  hedgerwo shrubs gro very slowly here as they are competing with established tree roots. Patience is needed!

Recently, part of one of our  old crab-apple trees fell over – it was completely decayed and hollowed out at the base and finally succumbed to old age. Fortunately we have some crab apple whips  which in future  years can be used to form part of the hedgerow again.



Autumn News Update

We have completed our 2013 bulb planting programme, thanks again to the Scouts and Guides for their help ( many hands DO make light work).

Regarding our rolling  3 year Plan for improvements to the park, there are more details of how we have looked at the park in  planning terms and what we are proposing   for 2013-16 at  FSP Management Plans 2013-16

Details of the 27th October AGM, the Chairman’s report and the  financial statement for the year  can be found here.

Third Annual General Meeting Minutes

Chairman’s Annual Report 2013

Accounts 2013

Bulb Planting and Hedgerow Maintenance days

The scouts and guides will be helping us plant bulbs again in November, in December we will start hedgerow maintenance  on the Dellwood Hedgerow and the Holy Ghost Field Hedgerow.

Dates for your diary:

Date & Time
Sun  24th November
         10.30 – 12.30
Spring Bulb Planting
Various locations in park
Sun  8th December 
         10.30  – 12.30
Spring Bulb Planting
Various locations in park
Sun 12th January     
         10.30 -  12.30
Hedgerow Maintenance
Dellwood Hedgerow
Sun  9th February   
         10.30 – 12.30
Hedgerow Maintenance
Holy Ghost Hedgerow
Sun 16th March      
          10.30 – 12.30
Seeding & plug planting
Hedgerows & Dellwood
Sun  6th April          
          10.30 – 12.30
Plug planting & general maintenance
Hedgerows & Dellwood

Catch Up on Spring Flowers

As we get to the end of April, nature is  quickly trying to  catch up  on growing and blooming –  the flowers have been so late in coming this year that the early insects who rely on them have been sorely tried – the solitary bees, early butterflies, and  those work horses of early pollination – the hover flies. Flora  are still about 2-3 weeks behind the average regime.

However,  lets look at the results of all our efforts last Autumn when we planted all those bulbs.  We scored perhaps 7 out of 10. The crocuses did well, the daffodils finally made it, only the aconites were a disappointment.

We planted about 200  aconite corms and we have never counted more than 27 little groups of  2-3 in flower – perhaps they will do better next year.

Next year we should see  slightly bigger clumps of  daffodils from the little groups we planted and they should all appear at the same time.

After a late start we have been tracking the  flowers available to  the early insects. A cold Winter and late Spring seems to  prompt  the flowering plants to make an extra effort – so  the celandines and violets have been a treat. This is what has  been available in March and April, enjoy!

At Last – the Spring Bulbs in Stratton make a show!

The snowdrops have put on a good show again – but mainly  at the  car park end of the walk by the tennis courts.

We began to think that the Spring bulbs we planted were not going to put in an appearance this year – being put-off by the February snow and the cold March winds. But they have begun to reward our efforts.


First the crocuses stood up to be counted – we snapped these on the two fine days at the beginning of March before  it went cold and then wet again.


They have really had a hard time of it in their first year – especially when the grey squirrels came hunting in the snow and pulled up  more than we had hoped to loose in this way.



The daffodils planted last year are nearly in bloom
, but the newly planted daf. bulbs are a lot more cautious and are some weeks behind them in pushing up flower heads.

Finally the Winter Aconites which were planted under the limes on the walk from the Sports Pavilion bast the tennis courts have started to show themselves –  on 18th March we counted 13  flowers – lets hope the rest  of the two hundred we planted join them soon.

Very soggy winter aconites under the lime trees.

2013 Working Sessions – March & April

Having planted all our Spring Bulbs in 2012 we decided to take some time out  and wait for Spring before  working on our hedgerows again.

Well here we are  in mid-March and we are still waiting for Spring…  (a bit of a contrast with last year when March was warm and welcoming). We have had one session on the Dellwood hedgerow in early March clearing, trimming and planting –  but there is still work to be done in out last work session  which will be  on Wednesday 10th April 10.00 am  - 1.00pm when we hope to be planting some more in-fill whips to  complete the hedge.

Meanwhile we have renovated the  dead hedging on the Holy Ghost Hedgerow and  completed the section nearest to the Information Board.

I hope you agree that the 2 guys who did much of the work did a really good job on Saturday 16th March. We had a working session scheduled for Sunday 17th  but the weather was  very wet that morning and we had made such progress on the Saturday that we  cancelled the session.



Last Working Sessions of 2012 – Nov 24th & 25th

This weekend was our last working session of 2012.

We kept our fingers crossed for dry weather last weekend but Saturday  24th was wet and miserable. The  Community Payback team were due to extend the dead hedging by the tennis courts and refurbish the existing stretch. They  managed an hour’s work but then called it a day – without  much impact on  the dead hedging. This will now have to wait for the New Year.

On the Sunday it was drier. We still had 1250 crocus and 250 daffodils to plant –  mainly round Cleveland Walk. Its a good job the Kempshott Scouts volunteered to give a helping hand – an enthusiastic team of 8 scouts and their leader set too at 10.15am and by 12.00 noon it was Job Done! 

If you want a job done properly – ask the Scouts. We were hugely  impressed by their team work. Thanks a lot, guys!

As we reach  the end of the  year we still have work to do on Dellwood Hedgerow –  clearing up after the strimming, planting  some  plug plants and inserting some spring bulbs which have been waiting patiently in troughs to reach their final destination. The wet weather was against us here and the work is still pending –  awaiting a significant dry spell in December or January.