Hedge laying!

As promised on the Scotland’s NNRs Facebook page, here’s the blog post you’ve been waiting for! Before getting into the main subject though, here’s what’s about the loch at the moment…

With the ever so slightly changeable weather (understatement), the wildlife around the loch appears to be a little bit in doubt as to whether it should be looking forwards to spring or expecting another dump of snow.

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Curlew enjoying sunlit stubble by the Heritage Trail

I’ve been out and about the loch this week and saw plenty of signs of spring: birds such as Blue Tits have paired up and are now prospecting for nest sites, the flowers on the Goat Willows are just about to burst into flower, and the sun was shining! It’s also nice to be able to hear the signs of spring, with lots of songbirds beginning to warm up their pipes for the season ahead.

And then Thursday arrived… And what made it worse was that the snow wasn’t even nice snow, it was that sort of wet snow that just soaks everything. Mind you, it did make everything look nice so who am I to complain. I didn’t actually take many pictures on Thursday because it was that wet that I couldn’t use my camera.

However, I did get my phone out so I could film Neil felling a tree in Burleigh car park. This is done because some of the trees are potentially hazardous so we remove them in a controlled manner as opposed to letting nature do it unexpectedly.

As you can see, it was very snowy and slushy. It was also quite cold…

Some of you may have realized that I said on Facebook that the blog would show you the progress we made on the hedge laying on Thursday. Well, we made none. The weather was too treacherous to ask Torquil, the hedge laying instructor, and all of our volunteers to make the journey to Loch Leven, so we felled a few trees instead.

But, on Wednesday we made a good start helped by the fact the sun was shining!

The hedge we laid was around by Mary’s Gate and runs between the Heritage Trail and a field, marked here on the map. I’ll take you through the process…

  1. Cut back any branches that may get in the way of the plant lying on it’s side. All of the plants will be laid on the same side. Also cut back any branches that get in the way of reaching the bottom of the stem.
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The gang trimming back branches

2. Using a billhook or a small axe, cut at a steep angle into the side of the stem on the opposite side to the side that is going to be laid on the ground. We don’t cut all the way through the stem though, it’s just split down the middle. New growth will come from the exposed wood and the rest of the plant will continue to use the roots it’s still connected to.

3. Whilst laying the plants, we weaved the branches into each other to help hold the hedge together and to make it look neater. We were also putting stakes into the ground at regular intervals to help with the weaving. Once the whole section of hedge had been laid down, we moved on to the next step…

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Laid hedge with upright stakes

4. To finish off, the hedge needs binding. For this we used Hazel and we weaved long, straight branches of hazel between the upright stakes, along the top of the plants that we had laid. Once we’d bound the whole section of the hedge Torquil used his chainsaw to chop the tops off the stakes and that was us done!

And here is the end product, a very neat but very functional hedge that will help to increase biodiversity by providing a home for all sorts of wildlife. But, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday to find out how that happens because this post is getting a little bit long!

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A well laid hedge

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