The humble hedgerow

Late August. The evenings are becoming noticeably shorter and there’s a feeling of summer drawing to a close. Last week the combine harvester was in the fields long into the evening, gathering in the last of the wheat before the forecast rain.

Now the fields are filled with golden stubble and edged with hedgerows that are warming with berry colours.

Strings of bryony beads hang in threads and garlands, some bright like traffic-lights, others already dulling to a deep dying red. Elsewhere there are still starry white flowers, promising more berries to come.

The brambles are the same, in places still in flower, in others yielding glossy fruit, ripe for picking. We couldn’t resist bringing a handful home for a batter pudding.

The hedgerow is a fascinating place: boundary, shelter, food source, inspiration. This stretch alone is made up of hawthorn, elder, holly, white bryony, ivy, cleavers, and hops, not to mention the plants and wildflowers that grow below and alongside.

If there’s a hedge near you, try using Hooper’s Hypothesis to estimate its age by counting the number of woody species within a thirty-yard stretch, then multiplying that number by 100.

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