Tuesday, November 26, 2013
When you live on a hill – and a hill that has a windmill, to boot – common sense tells you it is going to be windy; and it is. Every October, when the change of season starts to make the air currents even stronger, stuff starts getting blown about: allotment sheds, greenhouse windows, television aerials - anything that sticks its head above the parapet. But instead of any forward-planning to make these features windproof, we instead have a retrospective emergency fund to cover whatever disasters winter can throw at us and, after the St. Jude’s day storm, we had to raid the shoebox under the bed yet again.
When an unstoppable force - such as the wind - meets an immovable object - such as a solid fence - one thing happens: the immovable object becomes movable. With a whole line of fencing down, we would usually have got the panels replaced but, realising that we have been repairing this ugly edifice every year for eight years, this time we opted for a more sustainable solution. The penny finally dropped, and the emergency fund became a hedge fund.
We could have taken the easy option and planted the dense and rapid growing cupressus x leylandii, but with 60 million of these conifers - one for every person in Britain - there are already too many dense, lifeless shrubs blighting the lives of people up and down the country. I once walked along the Tanat Valley to Lake Vyrnwy in mid-Wales, and the route took me past a Forestry Commission plantation of leylandii. It was eerily still and quiet, something I mistook for a calm serenity until I realised that it actually repelled wildlife - I could not hear the cry of a single bird.
Instead, we went for a mixed native hedge. Taking advice from English Woodlands, at the Burrow Nursery in Cross in Hand, we planted a mix of traditional deciduous trees such as hawthorn, hazel, hornbeam and beech, and included some laurel for year-round greenery. Planting was hard work but, with reasonably mature plants rather than bareroot stock, there should be a hedge that is established – and immovable - within two years; and it will be attractive to humans, birds, insects and small mammals alike.