There’s never a really good time of year to flail a hedge, but it’s particularly galling to see so much hedge cutting going on at this time of year.
It could be why the prodigious bounty of our native hedgerows tends to be over-looked, despite the fad for foraging. Sloes, hips, haws, elderberries and blackberries have all been excised from the hedges around us, which have been neatly cut as they are every year. It’s a real pain; armed with a variety of recipes we always look forward to raiding nature’s larder at this time of year.
In the past folk used to collect apples, berries and nuts from hedges as a free supplement to their diet, but for many birds and mammals this food source is rather more critical, of course. And flailing hedges like this doesn’t just impact on larger animals. It’s not surprising the Brown Hairstreak is such a rare butterfly; it lays its eggs on young Blackthorn plants. There’s no chance of them surviving an annual flailing; populations will be wiped out in a single year.
That’s not quite true – best practice is to lay a hedge, although that’s a time consuming and labour intensive business and is usually not a practical answer. We donate money regularly to the National Hedgelaying Society as a laid hedge provides such good habitat.