Wednesday 15th March 2006 by C. Freeman
Mud, Sweat and Shears!
Hours of hacking, bending and weaving have resulted in Brooke Weston's shapely perimeter hedge that is capable of repelling stampeding animals! Thanks to the efforts of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and willing helpers from the College, the hawthorn hedge has been hacked and staked to create a viable wildlife habitat.
Groundsmen Paul Twamley and Edward Roberts were assisted by teacher, Robert Nicholls and his wife plus Year 12 student, Emma Hand during the 'Megahedge' event held during a chilly March weekend. The BTCV also supplied varying numbers of volunteers, with anywhere between ten to 60 people working on the hedge at any one time.
The BTCV gave the volunteers safety gloves, tools and one and a half hours' tuition explaining hedging terms and procedures.
Anglia Television came to record the Megahedge construction
The first step was to take off all the growth to the front and left side of each tree. Then each main branch would be axed virtually all the way through at ground level allowing it to be bent and interwoven with the neighbouring bushes. The finishing touches of hazel stakes and binding were added to give stability and create the bare bones of the hedge which should fill out and develop over time.
There are many regional variations of hedging but the pattern used at Brooke Weston was the 'Midland Bullock', so called because it would stop a charging bullock in its paces!
Teacher Robert Nicholls said: 'The hardest thing so far has been knowing how much to hack off! When you've got everything being built round here like crazy then it's quite nice to do something that creates a habitat for birds and wildlife.'
Year 12 student, Emma Hand said she got involved because she has previously helped out at the spinney at Broughton pocket park, and the experience gained at Brooke Weston would come in handy…
'My grandparents have got a bit of ancient hedge that they are trying to keep under control, so what I learn here should be useful with that hedge as well. It's all been enjoyable and I've met some really nice people.'
The BTCV paired people up and then gave each couple a 10 metre stretch to concentrate their efforts on. Soup and hot drinks were provided and the volunteers were able to get some much-needed shelter in a marquee which gave some protection from occasional sleet showers, rain and biting winds!
Instructor, Greg Thurlow, a professional hedge layer and dry stone waller said, that although the hacking preparation work looked drastic and destructive the resulting hedge would provide a better habitat for more varieties of creature: 'This hedge will attract birds and small mammals such as voles, mice and stoats. It will also be ideal for wrens, hedge sparrow, dunnock, blue tits and, as the hedge gets older, yellowhammers, whitethroats and birds like that.'
As well as encouraging wildlife to the site the project was also eco-friendly in another way, with discarded branches and twigs being fed through a chipper and ending up as a decorative mulch on the College's rosebeds; a perfect example of effective site management!
The event also attracted media interest with reporters from BBC Radio Northampton, Northants 96 and Anglia Television coming along to check on progress.