Hedge laying at Riddy Lane
On the 20th December, 2015 a group of volunteers from Cambridge Conservation Volunteers will be laying and coppicing a section of the hedge alongside Riddy Lane, the public bridleway between Bourn and Longstowe.
This hedge is particularly important for wildlife, with at least sixteen different woody species, which provide food and shelter for a whole range of animals, including nesting birds. Its value for wildlife has been recognised in the selection of Riddy Lane as a County Wildlife Site, and surveys by the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust over the years have been monitoring its condition. The hedge is now starting to become tall and leggy, losing the dense structure near the base and gaps are starting to form in places. If left alone the hedge would eventually lose all of the dense, bushy structure that makes it such good habitat.
To maintain the hedge in good condition it will be managed by laying and coppicing sections over the next few years. Laying involves cutting partway through the base of the tree and laying it down sideways. The tree will then put out new growth from the stumps and stems and the hedge will thicken up. This works best with species such as blackthorn and hawthorn. Some species, particularly trees with larger stems, will respond better to coppicing which involves cutting the stem off near the ground. Multiple new shoots will then sprout out, creating a bushier structure. To keep a variation in height some of the larger trees towards the centre of the hedge will be left. Gaps will be planted up with new plants of native species.
This is all being done in consultation with the Wildlife Trust and the Longstowe Hall Estate, who owns the site, with careful consideration of how to gradually restore the hedge with minimal impacts on the wildlife currently using it. A short section will be done each year for the next few years working on only one side of the double hedge at a time. This ensures that there will still be plenty of shelter and food for wildlife.
If you are using the bridleway while the volunteers are working, please be aware that they will be working along the edge of the path and please keep dogs on leads.
Should you wish to know more about hedge laying and coppicing, hedgerow wildlife, or about County Wildlife Sites, please contact the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust. (See www.wildlifebcn.org for contact information).