Saturday, 23 December 2017

Planting Hedges at Uckfield's Sussex Horse Rescue Trust

On Friday the 22nd of December, I helped to create a hedge at the Sussex Horse Rescue Trust in Uckfield.  This was organised by the Sussex Flow Initiative (SFI).  Their web site explains:

SFI works with landowners, local people and others to investigate, promote and create natural features designed to slow and store water in the landscape and to help reduce flood peaks. 

The organiser, Matt, explained that the hedges would also help to link two areas of ancient woodland:

  • The Woodland Trust's Views (Williams) Wood, between Manor Park Estate and Buxted Park.
  • Hempstead Wood, the opposite side of the railway line to the Horse Rescue.
The hedges will provide a Wildlife Corridor across the grazing.
This will help provide a "Wildlife Corridor" that enables birds, insects and other creatures to move between the two areas of woodland and other wildlife-friendly areas.  Other wildlife corridors nearby are:

  • The railway, which has plenty of vegetation on the linesides - including trees, primroses and ferns in the cutting near the new hedges
  • The river Uck
  • Hempstead Lane, whose shaggy hedges provide great habitats and at the feet of which I have found glow worms.
The information provided by the Horse Rescue people explains:

Hedging provides food in the form of berries and foliage for birds, small mammals and insects, and offers wind protection, which cuts down wind speed across the land, and helps prevent erosion. Hedgerows support invertebrates that control pests and pollinate crops. They also store carbon, help produce oxygen and capture harmful particulates.

"My" bit of hedge.
I planted a total of about 40 hedge plants covering 8 metres and comprising:

  • hawthorn
  • dogwood
  • hazel
  • wild rose.

We were using a "Slot Planting" method in which we used the shovel to prise open a slot. Then we inserted the bare roots, taking care to ensure that the roots are sitting naturally - not curling up, and then pushed the soil back. We added bamboo canes and plastic deer guards. The latter are a necessary precaution as a herd of Fallow Deer frequent the area. I saw deer slots on the way up and they have visited our garden on the nearby Manor Park estate.

Donkeys with the Buxted Park Hotel beyond.
The resident donkeys seemed curious about the comings and goings. When I walked past their field on the way home, they came to see me. The info from the Horse Rescue people explained:

Planting hedgerows directly benefits the horses too - a mixed native hedge can provide a good source of forage for horses, offering variety in their diet. Throughout the summer months, trees and hedges provide a welcome respite from the sun, offering shade and relief from flies, whilst during the winters months, hedging provides invaluable shelter for horses to protect themselves from wind and rain.

Hedges a good in bad weather too. I remember one time, when travelling home by train in lashing rain, horses and ponies were sheltering nose-first in the hedge.

So there are several good reasons for adding a hedge to the grazing fields - and planting this one was a very enjoyable experience.

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