Holy Hedge Laying Volunteers!

Whilst the trees are dormant and the birds are not nesting the Blackwater Valley Rangers visited Moor Green Lakes for our annual two hedge laying tasks. The Moor Green Lakes Group volunteers on Sunday and the Blackwater Valley volunteers on the Tuesday did a fantastic job of continuing on from last year’s success.

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Volunteer Leader Jane using a hatchet to create a pleach

The volunteers quickly set to work remove the spiky Bramble and Rose so we had more room to work. They then used hatchets and billhooks to create a pleach – the semi-cut part of the stem of the tree that allows it to bend and lay. Jane can be seen above demonstrating this important job. The cut needs to slice the tree stem down to the ground leaving a thin and fragile part still connected.

The trees were then laid in a criss-cross technique on top of each other in the same direction. Not completely flat to allow the sap to still rise up the tree. New stems will then grow from the laid trees to create a living hedge.

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Gerry, Chris, Jane and David weaving the binders around the stakes for a sturdy finish

To stabilise the hedge, the volunteers drove Hazel stakes into the ground. Weaving the laid trees in the keep them stable. Once we were happy that all the trees and branches were incorporated and stable, the binding began. Gerry, Chris, Jane and David can be seen above using thin and long Hazel stems to bind the hedge by weaving them in and out of the stakes. Thank you to Stu and the volunteers for collecting the stakes and binders from Gerry’s Copse by coppicing the week before.

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As you can see from the before and after photos the hard work pays off. The living hedge looks great, allows light to reach the path and provides a fantastic habitat for wildlife. Prolonging traditional management techniques like coppicing and hedge laying mean we can conserve our history as well as the multitude of wildlife that benefits from these techniques.

The next steps are to continue laying the bridleway footpath hedge next year and trim the sides and tops of the laid hedge for the next five years.

Well done and a big thank you to all the volunteers and my fellow Rangers for all your help.

Ranger Jenny

About blackwatervalleycountryside

The Blackwater Valley is located on the borders of Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire and runs for approximately 30km from the source near Aldershot, northwards to Swallowfield. At its confluence it joins the rivers Whitewater and Loddon. The Loddon eventually flows into the River Thames near Reading. Work in the Blackwater Valley is co-ordinated by the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership on behalf of the local authorities that border the Valley. Despite being surrounded by urban development the Valley provides an important green corridor for local residents As well as the Blackwater Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a small part of the Basingstoke Canal SSSI, three nature reserves within the Valley catchment and many other areas have been recognised for their ecological importance. The local planning authorities covering the Valley have designated 31 other areas as ‘Wildlife Sites’.
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