Eight years ago the hedges in the most southern section of the South Avenue had grown so high that they had begun to affect the lime trees. Something had to be done and that something was hedge laying as it would also make the hedge stock proof and make a good thick hedge for the birds. Trouble was there was a total of two kilometres to be done so we split it between two years. William Knight, Peter Franklin and Neil Smith (all quite new) helped me with the job.
One of the main problems was the width of the ditch and bank; the elm scrub ( trees really) had also grown much taller than the hedge- what to do? Well, I called in Agriplant. Richard Webber owned the firm who specialised in roadside vegetation management and had some rather large and expensive machines including long reach flails.
I don’t have any ‘before’ photos but, believe you me, these hedges were huge, both in height and width. Wimpole Estate also had a new Timberwolf chipper to get rid of the arisings including the branches from the lime trees. The chips were sprayed around the lime trees to help suppress weed growth. The last job to do was to clean out the ditches so that they could drain the land efficiently (we had to do this as quite a bit of the woody debris from the flailing ended up in the ditch).
Just to show the difference this is what the hedge and lime trees look like now after the work- you can see that the ditch bank has, in effect, become the hedge. All the elm, thorn, maple and other species of bush regrew from the stumps that were cut to ground level. “Don’t paddle upstream”, “Go with the flow”. Could have mowed right back to the laid hedge but it would have regrown in no time, better to have an ‘A’ frame shape to the hedge which should house plenty of nesting birds.
Eight years on (2015) and the hedge was getting a bit out of control again, absolutely amazing how much it has grown especially the field maple. Last week Agriplant, that is Karl and Paul, had obliterated the scrub growing into the avenue, it was now time to cut out the really big regrowth.
Certainly an arduous job for us; we worked along the inner side of the hedge cutting out the regrowth elm with chainsaws (this really does grow quickly). This would help Karl as he started to reduce the height of the hedge with a circular saw attachment. A master at hedge management Karl had decided to use the circular saw attachment as it would leave a tidy finish and was quicker than the flail; not only that, we wouldn’t have so much trash fall into the ditch. Just as well we cut the inner side as, even with the extra long reach of the circular saw, he couldn’t quite cut all the hedge because of the width of the hedge and the massive ditch (these ditches are like tank traps!!!!!!).
Quite amazingly Karl was able to move the cut material onto the avenue side of the hedge; we then had to pull it out and lay it out so that Paul could munch up the arisings.
Progress was much slower but it was steady, and we could keep up with Karl. Having removed the arisings from the lime tree side of the hedge it was obvious that we would have to aggressively cut the hedge back to where it was eight years ago. Trouble was the tractor and flail/saw would have to avoid the lime trees- a very difficult task- so we elected to cut the whole kilometre by hand with chainsaws. It’s a pity that the maintenance of the hedge wasn’t thought about when the avenue was replanted in the early 1980s. By the end of the week my arms and back were really aching.
Once Karl had taken the top off the first hedge he then tidied the outer side with a flail. Meanwhile Paul was using a £12,000 Vandelle mower to smash the regrowth near the road and in the small spinney. This would allow Karl access to top the last section of the first hedge (mind you, we then had to chainsaw the ditch and clear it out).
All the brash we moved from the ditch would have to be mulched up but it was time to go for lunch… The others disappeared in the two-seater pickup but… as Sarah and I drove out of the South Avenue in my Honda Civic, it hit a wet patch… and ground to a halt! Damn, damn & damn -wish we had the crew cab Land Rover back. Luckily Paul was still nearby and he brought his tractor to pull the poor old Honda out.
As the week went by so the work continued… Karl’s job was much slower than Paul’s, and Paul had mowed every bit of scrub in the South Avenue south of the A603 but I had half a day or so left for Paul with his Vandelle mower-what to do? Well, the farmland margins had scrubbed up with blackthorn. Better get him to mow this lot before the bird breeding season starts. Here are some old photos of past hedge laying competitions. It is along these sections that we needed to do some aggressive mowing.
A bit of rain didn’t help but the job was done by the end of Friday. Just as well as, in only one week’s time, we won’t be able to cut any more hedges with machines as it is the start of the bird nesting season. As luck would have it Karl had stayed a bit longer on Friday afternoon to finish the second hedge.
It was a pleasant surprise to have some help from the gardeners- they elected to concentrate on the limes… oh no, more brash to chip up!!!!!!! These trees were planted over thirty years ago and were sponsored by hundreds of people; there are over 900 trees in all. This is Bridgeman’s massive 2.5 mile long South Avenue: it takes a lot of effort to maintain it!