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Murlough is cared for as Ireland's first nature reserve since 1967, the fragile 6000 year old sand dune system offers some lovely walks. Due to the reserves wild nature you can discover birds, flowers, butterflies and more, all overlooked by the rounded peaks of the Mourne Mountains to the south.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Apologies in advance, I know some folk out there do this competitively and attend events where professional hedge-layers lay professional hedges at warp-speed, to them this may look less than perfect in comparison.  But to everyone else, take a look at our lovely neat artful laying technique!

We were given a thorough safety talk first, since this particular hedge was right by the roadside and there were multiple hazards such as dropping a tree onto a moving car, dropping a tree onto a distracted volunteer, accidentally flinging an axe at someone or letting a billhook slip from the grip and ricochet off somewhere perilous.  Soon we were working in safe, sane pairs (see her above and me below), whilst singing improvised hedge-laying songs* and testing the hypothesis that yelling allows you to hit harder with the billhook (see below)

The hedge we were laying is adjacent to the car park at Widow's Row, and we wanted to make it look neat and keep the rabbits out (ha, they are already in!)

Mostly we were laying young saplings, though a few larger trees that stood amongst the saplings got included.  First we trimmed off sticking-out branches to head-height, then planned what would get included in the hedge and what would remain as a standard where it was , providing a handy perching point for winged things.

The idea of hedge laying is to cut through the majority of the tree-trunk leaving a strip of living tissue, containing the cambium (the living bit just under the bark which transports the water up from the roots and the sugars down from the leaves) and gently lower this so the tree lies almost horizontal, against the next one.  From these supine limbs the next year's growth will spurt upward and form an effective barrier.  Then after a while the whole process can be repeated and you get a zig-zag effect, a living wall of twisted green, brimming with contented invertebrates and small beasties.

Also, the debris we remove can be placed in a trailer and used as a nest by the migratory Claire.

*I did write a song about hedge-laying, in the traditional heavily innuendo-laden folk style and is available to volunteers and curious parties on request.

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