Cold Days + Hard Work = Hot Toddies

Date: 30 January 2019 | Weather: Partly Sunny, 4°C

In between several chilly and stormy days, we found a sunny break and got right back to work on the island road. The objective of the day was to clear brambles by hand.

Here are the “before and after” photos of one section of the road. What a difference, don’t you think? Brambles were cut back and their roots were dug up wherever possible. This is a continuous process; every so often we will have to have a go at those briars. (Briars, of course, do provide vital shelter for wildlife but there are plenty on the other side of the walls and ditches; we are just stopping their encroachment over what we hope to be verges full of wild grasses and flowers.) As we worked, we spotted our first early dog violet of the year! Lucky we weren’t using the mower or the finger-bar!

Friends who were visiting for the day stopped by for a chat on their way to the beach. They were curious about what we were doing and we explained how indiscriminate mowing and strimming that happen too late in spring or early in autumn prevent wild flowers from blooming or setting seed, leading to their disappearance. The best practice as recommended by authorities on habitat and wildflower preservation is to cut the verges back only once or perhaps twice a year in midwinter and possibly early spring.

This idea is not new. The document Irish Hedgerows: Networks for Nature is a fantastic source to start with as it is full of informative facts and suggestions about nature preservation in the Irish landscape. Plantlife, a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi, also provides invaluable insights. Their Good Verge Guide provides a different, pro-nature, perspective to the maintenance of road verges, which are constantly under pressure due to people’s interests in road safety and access.

Ireland’s hedgerows cover about 450,000 hectares (1.1 million acres) or 6.4% of the country. Although there are many areas like ditches and banks and walls in Ireland that do not conform to the true definition of hedgerows, they nevertheless do a similar or the same job that true hedgerows do. With the cultivation of land for farming and grazing, nowadays many wildflowers can only grow in places like hedgerows and ditches and road verges.

Hedgerows give the Irish landscape its distinctive character and field pattern and provide an important wildlife habitat especially for woodland flora and fauna…An appropriate conservation and maintenance programme promotes vigour, flowering, fruiting, and wildlife potential of hedgerows.

A variety is best. The quest for neatness should not take precedence over ecological and landscape considerations

Irish Hedgerows: Networks for Nature. Edited and compiled by David Hickie.

After two hours of work, we treated ourselves to a (well-deserved) final hot toddy. Until our next post, cheers!

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