There is an old saying: “good fences make good neighbours”. That is certainly true in farming and there is nothing more irritating than the opposite – a neighbour whose stock keep breaking through into your fields.
Nowadays, with heavy emphasis on bio security and ensuring that animals do not spread diseases on to others, good fences and proper barriers between holdings are even more important.
Regular hedge trimming usually keeps hedges in good shape. We only trim our hedges from September to February so as to avoid disturbing nesting birds and their fledglings.
Most hedges last for generations, but, from time to time they may need renewing. That is why each winter we “lay” hedges where there is a gap. This involves bending or cutting growing branches and holding them in position with spars so that the new growth in spring fills the gap.
Also this winter we have renewed one of our Devon bank hedges. This involves banking up the existing stones and soil to ensure that the hedge has not spread. Then the top of the hedge is prepared for planting of saplings. A traditional hedging bush in our area is the blackthorn, which produces a spiky, thick impenetrable hedge, beautiful white flowers in April and also sloes for sloe gin or vodka in autumn. So we have ordered a hundred of these from a specialist nursery.
Two rows of two foot tall saplings are planted at eighteen inch distances with bamboo stakes to hold them upright and plastic guards to protect them from deer, rabbits and squirrels. Hopefully, with wet conditions, these will take and by autumn we shall have the start of a strong new hedge. And maybe even a few sloes to flavour our winter drinks……