Oxhill News

www.oxhill.com / www.oxhill.org.uk

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

March 2015

This months News



Nature Notes

“March is the first day of Spring. He is Nature’s Old Forester, going through the woods and dotting the trees with green, to mark out the spots where the future leaves are to be hung. The sun throws a golden glory over the eastern hills, as the village-clock from the ivy-covered tower toll six, gilding the hands and the figures that were scarcely visible two hours later a few weeks ago. The streams now hurry along with a rapid motion, as if they…were eager to rush along the green meadow-lands, to tell the flowers it is time to awaken.”

Chambers Book of Days 1864

Snedding, stobbins, heatherings, pleacher, slasher and billhook, not the names of the Bash Street kids (although they could be), but all words relating to hedge-laying or plashing and how nice to see some residents of Oxhill having a bit of plashing done to their hedges. Traditionally this was done to keep your hedge dense and stockproof; every county or region had their own distinctive style such as Flying Hedge style, Stake and Pleach style, Herringbone style, and Warwickshire had Bullock fence style. Not only did each county have a pattern of hedging, but the two main tools, a billhook and a slasher, were also different in style.  I feel very fortunate in that my farther-in-law (a champion hedge-layer) left me his Warwickshire billhook and slasher.  He always kept the blades sharp and when not in use, wrapped in oiled sacking, and I too do the same. Hedgerows, even in gardens, are very important to wildlife and form one of the last refuges for woodland and grassland species banished by development and intensive agriculture. Six hundred species of plant, 65 species of bird and twenty species of mammal have been recorded living in hedges. Two-thirds of British butterflies, some forty, depend on hedgerows. Hawthorn shield bug, dozens of bees, hoverflies and ladybirds depend on them, it has been estimated that fifteen hundred species of insects rely on hedgerows, making them in turn a cornucopia for bats and insectivorous birds. Of course they also provide the much needed ‘wildlife corridor’ for wildlife to move between different areas. It’s interesting to note that recently a new style called Motorway has been devised: pleachers are laid in the direction of the traffic flow so as to minimise damage caused by vehicles crashing through hedges. A thoughtful comment from the hedger and ditcher Edmund Blunden in 1935 ‘And when there are no more English hedges, and the expedient of barbed wire has carried the day everywhere, then shall the realm of Albion be brought to great confusion’. 

An important point to remember, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to trim, cut, coppice or lay hedgerows between 1 March to 31 July without making a thorough check for nesting birds. This involves observing with binoculars for a period of two hours and walking and checking within the hedge for nests. Remember some birds will have several broods in a good year.

Three red kites have been seen regularly around Whatcote recently, a little egret has been seen several times on the brook in Brailes (it could turn up on our brook) and a kingfisher has been spotted down by our bridge.  I am pleased to see the tree creeper back in our garden, and talking about red kites, we went down to London the other day and at the foot of the Chilterns on the M40 centre lane was a road kill pheasant, and there were 22 red kites diving and circling just above car height waiting for a gap in the traffic to dive in to grab the booty! The traffic was heavy, heaven knows if one ever succeeded.   Let’s hope so.

“March is the month that God designed to show those who don’t drink what a hangover feels like”     

Garrison Keillor

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: February 25, 2015