This is a celebration of the less obvious. Hedges around fields are a commonplace feature of the English landscape and, while I think most of us are aware of their importance in terms of diversity and wildlife, we probably don’t think too hard about the trees that form the hedges. I certainly didn’t use to. I had a vague idea that field hedges were pretty much all made of hawthorn, which – in my mind – was a bush not a tree. I was wrong, of course. Hawthorn is a small, native tree and, while it’s a popular and effective hedge tree, it certainly isn’t the only option.
This hedge is made of field maple, another small, native tree (Britain’s only native maple) that is often associated with older, estsblished hedges, particularly in area with chalky soil. I have become increasingly fond of field maple since I discovered its existence a few years ago. It has an interesting bark texture, seems capable of the most wonderful contortions, and its distinctively shaped leaves turn a glorious golden colour in the autumn.
But this is spring. And the hedgerow is leaping with plant life (there were probably lots of willd animals, too, but they all hid when they heard me coming!): I recognise ivy, cow parsley and cleavers( or “sticky buds”); there are other plants that look familiar but I don’t know their names.