When I’m at home my hobbies are, as most of you’ll know, riding, sailing and generally spending time in the countryside, walking with the dog and beating for the syndicate shoot of which my dad is a member.
But I no longer have a horse, my dog is at home and sailing isn’t something that’s easily transferable to uni. I’m not one to get much fun from going out and getting drunk and making a fool of myself (I don’t need alcohol to do that).
What I’m really trying to say is that when I’m at uni I need to get out more.
I was talking with a friend from my course over a drink on Friday night, when he said that he couldn’t stay late (I think he went home at 2am in the end) as he had somewhere to be the next day. Doing a bit of prying, I learnt that he was going to do some hedge-laying alongside the canal that runs through the town, with Harper’s Conservation Society.
‘Oh wow, that sounds like fun.’ And I was invited along.
I admit I overslept, but I made it to the canal, albeit a bit late. There were more people there than I had expected, maybe around 10 students from Harper and five or so members of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust.
When I got there I wasn’t sure what was going on. There seemed to be a row of trees alongside the canal, and lots of people in/hacking away at those trees. It turned out they were pulling the alder and the deadwood out of the hedge to clean it up and make room for the hawthorn, so I got stuck in.
As you can see from the picture, there was a lot of ivy covering the trees. This made cutting them down difficult for a number of reasons. Firstly, it meant there was a quite a large amount of dead wood that was disguised by the ivy, so when we thought it was all clear and came to laying the hedge we actually still had some cutting to do. Secondly there was a lot more to cut through than just the stem of the tree as the ivy was about 10cm thick in some places. Then when the tree had been cut, the ivy held it up and it just hung there. But we got there in the end, and made a big bonfire, which is always fun.
The bonfire was next to a section of the canal that has yet to be dug out. A lock has been dug out very recently.
When all the dead wood had been cut out and the ivy cleared, we started laying the hedges. This provides a thick hedge and a good nesting and feeding environment for birds. I was told that there is a limited time frame to lay hedges, as it needs to be done before the weather warms up and the sap starts to rise. Even though most of the trunk is cut through, the hedge remains alive and continues to grow.
I think this stretch looked good. It looks a little bare on the left hand side, but that is because the trees to the left will be laid on top of it. Stakes are used to hold the hedge in place.
The trust is working to reinstate the canal. Here is the canal further along.
There are two breeding pairs of swans on this stretch of the canal, with signets.