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The Hedgerow

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Hedgerow Book www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com*

muddy boots www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

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This morning I struggle with the swollen front door, meeting a wall of wind which makes me stagger. I head over to the cow field. The going is getting really tough, each foot sinking into a sticky squelchy hole. A jet of liquid mud and manure is nicely timed to splatter over my jeans. This morning we heard on the radio that the main train line has been washed away by the sea at Dawlish.

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The trees are swaying like giant jellies and the bawling wind is deafening. The rain stings, little pinpricks on my skin. The cows aren’t bothered and they are grazing down the hill, though the moment they see me they pick up their hooves eagerly, and squelch and slip towards me. I have the usual moment of utter disbelief at the state the field, and the usual response it’ll stop soon, won’t it? spring is coming, things will dry out, the grass will recover

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muddy field www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com*

River Valley North Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

This is the view from the cow field. Normally you can’t see the river very well as it is hidden by steep sides. The adjoining field aslo flooded here.

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Muddy Cow Feet www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Dainty

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Despite all, we have managed to get some some winter jobs sorted out on the dry days. Hedge work has been ongoing for a few years as we are in the process of restoring our hedgerows  – not on our own though, far too big a job for us alone, we have lots of help. It doesn’t come cheap but we think it’s worth it.

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Layed Hedge Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

This is new growth sprouting from the hedgelaying last winter. It’s a little rough and ready and not as beautiful as some hedgework but we are working with what we’ve got – in this case, outgrown hazel. Hawthorn whips were planted to fill any gaps, though the hazel is quite dominant. In the past, without barbed wire the bulk of the hedge would have been hawthorn or ‘quickthorn’ as it is known colloquially.

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Layed Hedge Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

You can see here where the hazel was laid down with a cut from the billhook.

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Billhook www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

A billhook

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The thicker hedges will provide a great habitat for wildlife. We leave some trees at intervals, as is tradition. These provide shade and another kind of habitat.

This book ‘Hedgerow’ by Eric Thomas & John T White is now out of print but it is a lovely book and some copies are still available online. I think it deserves a reprint. It’s supposed to be a children’s book but hey, why let them have all the fun?

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Cut native hedge Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

This is one boundary which had overgrown into trees. We’ll do the other half next year.

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Hedge Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

This hedge down the bridlepath has a lot of sycamore in it – not something you want in a hedge. This year we have taken on getting rid of them by cutting and poisoning the stumps. This work has to be done in the winter, soon the shoots of bluebell, campion and stitchwort will appear.

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Sycamore stump www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

One of the sycamore stumps ready to apply the poison. I drilled holes into the top as well. It looks brutal but will be beneficial in the long run for the all the flora along this stretch.

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Traditional Hereford Heifer www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Hello, what are you doing in the hedge? Bit windy?

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Showing all the useful plants found in a hedge in autumn

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We are also having trees cut for some of next winters firewood, using old pollard points to take the trees back to. Pollarding is an ancient practice of harvesting tree growth at a manageable height. This wood had many uses in the past…animal fodder, firewood, wood for the production of simple household items such as door handles and broom sticks. The Hedgerow book takes you on a fascinating journey into the history and culture of the hedgerow.

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Slightly neater than ours... Hedgelaying competitions are still held every winter to find the quickest and neatest craftsman. I've always enjoyed the process, if you get a chance, do pick up a billhook and give it a go.

Slightly neater than ours… Hedgelaying competitions are still held every winter to find the quickest and neatest craftsman. I’ve always enjoyed the process, if you get a chance, do pick up a billhook and give it a go.

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Hedge Cornwall www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Hedgework and the resulting firewood

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The hedges’ summer bounty – showing edible and medicinal plants.

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Ash Tree Pollard www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

An ash tree pollarded

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Ash Tree Pollard www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

An ash taken back to old pollard points – this tree has been managed like this for many years. Pollards live for a very long time – some oaks pollards have survived 600 years. I always think about the people all those years ago cutting in this same way.

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Some of the products which might have been made from the hedge

Some of the products which might have been made from hedge & tree wood

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As the grass is so wet there is not much nutrient to be had from what’s left on the pasture. The cows are always hungry, they really love the hay. Every time I split a bale last summer just tumbles out. I have to corral them while I clean out their shed and divvy up the hay, otherwise it’s all a bit hectic. Just don’t get between a heifer and her hay!

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Traditional Hereford Heifers www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

Don’t worry I’m not going to steal it…

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What a lovely haul

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Logs in Field www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

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Another beautiful feature of the book are the double and four page spreads in the centre. Obviously my pictures don’t do it justice but you get the idea.

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This is the diversity which you would hope for in a traditionally managed hedgerow.

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And come autumn...

And come autumn…

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Hedgerows are steeped in social history

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And just to finish off, the cows in their natural habitat…

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Traditional Hereford Heifers www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com*

Traditional Hereford Heifers www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.com

We’re coming, where’s our hay?

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