Trees on Ripple Farm

We’ve been filling in gaps in hedges around the fields we rent in Wye, and this winter this has included more than 200m of a double row hedge along the edge of ‘Orchard Field’ on the boundary with Coldharbour Lane, planting around 1,200 native UK grown saplings. We planted a ‘pollinator’ mix from the Woodland Trust which includes rowan, hazel, blackthorn, hawthorn, goat willow, wild rose and crab apple and we also added some hornbeam and field maple.

Oak in hedge 

Photos, l-r

Jay planted Oak amongst newly planted trees between Lucas and Orchard fields, gapping up done Winter 2019/20

Hedge gapping up Winter 2020/21 between Orchard field and Coldharbour Lane

Alder hedge pollarded November 2020.

Alder hedge pollarded November 2019


About half of the saplings are protected with standard plastic tree spirals (made from offcuts and supplied with the Woodland Trust trees) and about half with biodegradable tree guards, which we plan to leave on for 4-5 years. The biodegradable ones are an experiment, and we will have to monitor how well they break down at the end of their life. It would be great if we didn’t need tree guards and we did try leaving the wild rose plants without tree guards initially, thinking the rabbits wouldn’t go for them but within a few days they had been eaten down to a few cm, so they are now protected and should re-grow.(Update, they re-grew very well once protected).

We  planted some spare hornbeam at the top of Orchard Field, and did a bit of gapping up elsewhere.

The other hedges/wind-breaks in the fields we rent at Wye include 2 of Alder, which we have had pollarded over the last 2 years as they had grown very tall and this should prolong their life. This also gives us some firewood, and the brash has been left at the base of the hedge adding to the wildlife habitat. Alder actually supports 70 species of insect and fixes nitrogen but a mixed hedge would be more beneficial to wildlife of course.

We also planted some rowan, oak, birch, hazel, wild cherry and hawthorn in the windbreak at the top of Holmes field in winter 2019, filling in gaps between the poplar, pear and redcurrants remnants of the Wye College Farm as well as some naturally regenerated thorns and a couple of oaks.

The wind-break/hedge alongside Occupation Road/Stony Track include leylandii at the bottom, then poplar, then damson and at the top a more traditional hedge including hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel and there’s also a poplar wind-break below Orchard field. Since we’ve been renting these fields in Wye we’ve allowed most of the hedges to widen by natural regeneration. The Alder and the thorns seem to do this very well and then some species arrive courtesy of various birds. There are quite a few baby oaks scattered about too, presumably from acorns buried by Jays and forgotten about! Needless to say there’s nothing much growing at the bottom of the stretch of leylandii!

We also rent a small area of land including glasshouses and polytunnels at Olantigh, and we planted a hedge of hawthorn, hazel, blackthorn, crab apple and cherry there in 2007, which has done very well, we’ve allowed it to grow fairly tall.

And at out home site near Crundale the hedge north-east of the farm bordering the road is mainly thorns with some mature trees and the other hedges are not so well-maintained so are tall and messy, (which is perfect for the turtle dove that visits there), with a mixture of species including one lovely oak (see sunset photo at top of page), as well as a beech windbreak from when there were polytunnels on this site. We've started to fill in some gaps here too and we also planted a row of plums and apples there about 10 years ago, which yield enough fruit to sell at farmer’s markets.

We have to keep the hedges bordering roads tidy but are happy to have a more relaxed cutting rotation on the rest, cutting every 2 years or less, and allowing a bit more height each time to benefit wildlife.