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CROW (Conserve Reading on Wednesdays)
Winter 2011/2012
Bugs Bottom, Gravel Hill, Emmer Green ~ Hedgelaying

On the border with South Oxfordshire with red kites lazily circling overhead, it is sometimes difficult to believe this site is but a short drive from Reading town centre. A road, Gravel Hill, marks the boundary and on the Berkshire side there is a hedge with grassland beyond, an area generally know as Bugs Bottom, although some may prefer Hemdean Bottom. In fact there are two hedges, the original along side the road is in part at least, in poor condition shaded both by the second hedge and by the hedge and trees on the Oxfordshire side of the road. The second hedge adjacent to the grassland was planted about twenty years ago by the developers of the nearby housing estate in reparation for the environment damage caused by the development and mainly consisting of field maple interspersed with hazel, blackthorn and wild rose. The site is now owned by Reading Borough Council.

Neither hedge had been cut in recent years, in fact the newer hedge never had been cut, and whilst the long term aim of the project is the restoration of the original roadside hedge the immediate need was to reduce the shading of that hedge whilst maintaining the boundary along the grassland edge. (To have cut the original hedge without increasing the light would have almost certainly resulted in a further deterioration in its condition.) It was therefore decided to lay the newer hedge.

By the time of CROW's second visit on the 16th November good progress was being made. Here Tom under John's guidance is putting a shine on stakes along a completed section of the hedge.

Because of the length of hedge to be laid, CROW enlisted BTCV's help each running a series of tasks at the site throughout the winter. In addition one training day was held.

Wednesday, 19th October 2011 (CROW)
Saturday, 14th January 2012 (BTCV)
Thursday, 20th October 2011 (BTCV)
Wednesday, 1st February 2012 (CROW)
Saturday, 12th November 2011 (BTCV)
Thursday, 2nd February 2012 (BTCV)
Wednesday, 16th November 2011 (CROW)
Sunday, 26th February 2012 (Training)
Thursday, 17th November 2011 (BTCV)
Wednesday, 7th March 2012 (CROW)
Wednesday, 11th April (CROW)

When we started the task Reading Borough Council kindly offered to organise a training day. Unfortunately the training took awhile to materialise and it wasn't until Sunday, 26th February that seven volunteers joined local hedgelayer Clive Leeke for a day's education in the ancient art of hedgelaying.

Clive Leeke:

Here Clive demonstrates laying. As can be seen much of the material to be laid was of a "reasonable size" and given that field maple, the predominate species in the hedge, has a tendency to split and break, not the easiest of hedges to lay even for a seasoned practitioner.

In fact much of the day was spent developing our staking and binding skills.

Some pupils give the impression of having had an enjoyable day.....

..... whilst others seem to have found the experience more tiring.

By the end of March about three quarters of the hedge had been laid. The main aim of CROW's task on the 11th April was to complete the staking and binding of all the hedge that had so far been laid so it was left in a neat and tidy condition over the summer months, ready for us to resume work in the autumn. We did however find time to lay a further short section.

Against a backdrop of flowering blackthorn, Barry and Nicky get busy sharpening stakes .....

..... as Bob and Rikki start practicing their binding skills.

A final look at some of what we've managed to achieve over the last six months .....

Our thanks to everyone who has joined us at this site over the winter and to the members of the local community who have expressed their appreciation. It is our intention to return to the site in late September or early October to resume the task.

At the end of May Bob, one of our volunteers who had helped lay the hedge, returned to the site to find that not only the hedge was starting to grow but the whole scene transformed.

Our thanks to Bob for providing these photo's.