On 10th March 2018 the Rye Meadows Volunteers together with Ashtead residents and family friends came to plant 500 native mixed hedging plants in Fraudings Marsh. There will be a further 250 hedge plants to position the weekend of 17th March when volunteers will be very welcome.
Since Rye Meadows was first started this land has been grazed by horses from local stables, but in 2017 it was decided to mark out the section that relates to Rye Meadows and divide the field by a new fence line. We hired a contractor to undertake the heavy task of erecting the 50 posts with a rammer, but the volunteers then came to erect the 100 3 metre rails.
At the same time volunteers were clearing away the heavy blackthorn scrub from the northern bank of the Rye Brook in preparation for further work on the banks to widen the stream and re-establish meanders that were removed in the 1950s when the stream was artificially straightened. Flood control has changed over the years and originally the idea was to ensure the water ran downstream as soon as possible by making the banks vertical and the river straight. Modern thinking is to create berms and widen the banks, re-creating meanders to slow the water down and store it upstream. The City of London Corporation started this process on the Rye some 10 years ago building a stone berm with scrapes and pools upstream of it. Rye Meadows has continued the process in a smaller way and will continue this in the Centenary Field/Fraudings Marsh area.
Having built the fence and removed the scrub, we wanted to ensure the future habitat for birds and wildlife was replaced, and therefore arranged to plant 750 native wildlife friendly hedging plants next to the fence. In time the hedge will replace the fence as it deteriorates.
The hedging planted came from www.hedgenursery.co.uk and is comprised of the following plants:-
Wildlife Friendly Mixed Hedging Pack consists mainly (50%) of Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn) but also includes a mix of Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn), Corylus avellana (Hazel), Cornus sanguinea(Common Dogwood), Acer campestre (Field Maple) and Malus sylvestris(Crab Apple) (10% of each). This hedging mix is made to reflect rural hedging. It is suitable for all soil types and positions.
Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn):Small, fast-growing, deciduous tree with glossy dark green leaves, flat clusters of scented white flowers in May, and glossy red haws. (Please Note: Fruit may cause mild stomach upset if ingested)
Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn): A prickly native thorny hedge which produces masses of tiny snow white flowers in March on bare branches, with dark green oval leaves and purple sloe berries in autumn.
Corylus avellana (Hazel): Fast-growing, medium-sized tree with large green leaves, long yellow catkins and edible 'Hazelnuts'
Cornus sanguinea (Common Dogwood): Distinctive red stems with broad, ovate variegated leaves, small white flowers and black 'Dogberries'
Acer campestre (Field Maple): Fast-growing, deciduous tree, with leaves developing from red to green to buttery-yellow, small green flowers and winged seeds
Malus sylvestris (Crab Apple): Small, native,deciduous tree with cup-shaped pale pink flowers in spring. and fleshy, yellow-green, apple-like fruits tinged with red in autumn
One volunteer commented on the irony of working to remove blackthorn scrub and then later planting blackthorn in a new hedge. Blackthorn is a good hedging plant if kept under control and it produces lovely white flowers in March/April, followed by berries. These feed the birds but also are used in the making of sloe gin!! Perhaps in time there will be on sale at Village Day "Ashtead Rye Meadows Sloe Gin" - who knows!