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Wednesday was hedge maintenance day at High Borrowdale. If Middle Bleansley was heavenly last week, High Borrowdale was too, just in a more rustic way! The wind blew but the willow warblers and tree pipits were singing away. We recorded some of the birds on-site, I wonder if you can identify willow warbler, tree pipit, carrion crow or meadow pipit?

The meadows are growing now we are in shut up time with no sheep, and spring was everywhere with marsh marigolds in the wet areas, and purple bluey ajuga flowering in the allotment. 

Pictured: Marsh Marigolds

It is 18 months since we planted our new 420m hedge, helping create new habitats, provide connectivity between habitats, enhance the landscape and slow the flow of any surface water.

Pictured: Volunteers tending to our 420m hedge at High Borrowdale

Like all things, it needs maintenance. Our task was to straighten the tree stakes and pull out any grass that would block light or compete with the hedge plants. One of the tremendous benefits of Friends of the Lake District owning land is that we can learn by doing, experiment a bit and learn by trial and error. We have tried pretty much everything before in the tree staking line to help our trees grow, nearly every type of stake and fixing possible but the extreme High Borrowdale winds and environment always triumph!

Pictured: Tree planters protecting our precious trees from some inquisitive visitors

So you can imagine the look on the volunteers’ faces 18m ago when the hedge plants came with some bamboo canes and small spiral guards… rather hysterical laughter about the chances of both lasting more than a month. But, they have… Amazingly, the stakes and guards are all in place and have been blown about less than the tree guards and one inch stakes we also put in. We also noted that there is less grass growing in them as they are smaller. Why is that then? No idea, the only thing we could think of is that as they are smaller and thinner they have less resistance to the wind.

Pictured: Replacing blown tubes in the old hedge bank

When we put up plastic netting enclosures a decade or so ago, the 8 foot posts were rocked by the wind and eventually had to come out, so perhaps bigger means more wind battering which in turns means more instability. Pondering on other elements of our informal trials, we noted that the coir and jute matting we had put down to suppress the grass, left over from our erosion experiments (watch our video summary) had made no difference to grass growth at this stage. It may have helped in year one, but by year two, the grass is growing through just like everywhere else. The third thing we noticed and had not planned is that the areas where the hay rattle had spread from the meadow had significantly less grass growth.

Pictured: View to our meadows from allotment

So conclusions? Definitely worth thinking about spreading some hay rattle seed about to suppress the grass, a hesitant nod to perhaps stakes and spiral guards being more stable so far than tree guards. Let’s see what happens over the next year or so before the guards come off. The good news is that growth rates are good and there were hardly any losses, again a massive contrast to the rest of the property.

Next week we have our third volunteer training event – tree and veteran ID with FLD member and tree consultant Luke Steer. If you wish to join us, BOOK here> 

The only other training event we still have spaces on is the moth and butterfly ID training in June – again booking via the above link.

The training is already inspiring people, several of those people on the bird ID last week are heading onto our land at the Helm to do a bird survey for us. Can’t wait to hear the results and begin sending them in to the Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre in Carlisle so we have more records and a bit of citizen science going on.