As everyone living through it knows, we’ve had an awful lot of rain this winter.
So far – touch wood- we’ve been lucky here, and not had as much flooding as in previous years. Maybe it’s because since our river was dredged a couple of years back, it flows more quickly, so takes away the rain faster.
Or maybe, it’s because the rain has fallen gently over an extended period, rather than in the short, intense bursts that lead to flash flooding. It certainly feels like it’s rained for a lot of the time, giving us grey skies for many days.
But even on wet, grey days, there are things to see.
One of the things that is noticeable in winter is the ‘skeleton’ of the hedges. Most of the field hedges are predominantly hawthorn, with some blackthorn, hazel, elder and ash. Interspersed are dog roses, brambles, and the odd bit of holly and ivy.
When the leaves are gone, the patterns of growth and trimming in the hedges are clear to see. In the picture below, it’s clear to see the denser patches in the hedge where it’s been trimmed to a level in the past, and since allowed to grow taller.
When the hedge plants are trimmed, they tend to throw up several shoots from just below the cut – which is what gives rise to the denser lines where the hedge was cut in the past.
The new shoots tend to grow as near straight up as possible – and in fast-growing woods like elder and ash, this can give rise to long, straight ‘wands’ growing up. In the past, trees were often deliberately cut like this to produce long, straight pieces, such as hazel sticks.
Tall growing hedges make perching places for birds, like this one here:
But the frequently cut, dense thorny hawthorn makes a fortress in which birds like to hide. A really dense hedge filters the wind and gives the birds valuable shelter. I saw a wren flitting in and out of this hedge:
The hedges also form a support framework for lichens – and on a dull day, the bright orange lichen gives a cheerful splash of colour.