On the 5th March 2015 we were informed by the Environment Agency that “The plan is to go along the length in question with the excavator-mounted tree shears cutting out the overhanging branches and burning the brash behind us as we go along.” The “length in question” is that of the Ings Dyke hedge between Clifton Ings and Rawcliffe Meadows but the trees, and the hedge below them, are all on the Rawcliffe Meadows side. Visitors during the week commencing the 16th March will have witnessed what the Environment Agency delivered, and more than one has complained about it. However Natural England had given their assent and that, apparently, is an end to it.
A fortnight before the hedge along the Ings Dyke, from the little bridge across, looked like the photo below (taken on the 7 March) – perhaps a little bushy but it had been layed by volunteers more than twenty years ago expending many hundreds of volunteer hours in doing so and been shaded by the oaks and chestnuts perhaps planted at the time the North Riding Lunatic Asylum was founded in the 1840’s, meaning that it grew minimally from the layed pleachers. Interplanting had also been done but developed little, again due the shade of the bigger trees :
The above picture demonstrates that much more than overhanging branches has been cut back. The same hedge had carefully been layed by volunteers, starting in 1991, who had spent many hours ensuring it was stock-proof and also interplanting where necessary. As the EA contractors were burning the brash as they worked there can be no evidence of nests being destroyed but it was certainly an ideal hedge and the Pond moorhen could frequently be found in there.
As evidence that it was layed here are a few more photos in memory of it:
It was decided to lay the hedge in 100 metre sections, to avoid complaints from visitors at the apparent harsh treatment being dealt out, and it started at the bridge end in 1991 but as the photo’s below demonstrate the BTCV (now the TCV) were still at it in 1994.
Given the resources again that we had twenty odd years ago something might be done to make this look and perform better but that would require (at a minimum) someone to:
- fence along the inside to keep a stock-proof boundary and protect the hedge regeneration (cattle can’t be trusted to keep out of the dyke, especially if water levels are low in summer and there are other cattle on Clifton Ings
- crown-lift at least some of the trees to let more light through
- coppice the remaining hawthorn stumps properly
- inter-plant with hazel and holly (too shaded for blackthorn but maybe a small proportion of other species) – given another five years it may be possible to start laying again
We had already planned our year’s work of maintaining compliance with the Stewardship and SSSI prescriptions when this happened, so we won’t be doing it or contacting for it unless a large pot of money falls in our laps.