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January, 2018



Ancient hedge to be saved for future by Keri Beckingham A MEDIEVAL hedge in Henleaze is to be replanted to create a better and fuller barrier for wildlife. Phoenix Hedge, which is thought to be centuries old and of significance due to its age and uniqueness, is located along the public footpath between Henleaze Park and Phoenix Grove, adjacent to Claremont School in Henleaze. A section of the 90m long hedge will be laid and interwoven on Friday 5 January from 2pm, and local residents are encouraged to come along and see this ancient craft for themselves. The hedge’s likely ancient origins were first recognised in the mid-1980s by local residents Alan and Sylvia Kelly, who applied a hedge dating method (known as Hooper’s Hypothesis), based on the number of woody species within a given length

of hedge. This indicated that Phoenix Hedge could possibly be up to 700 years old as it comprised elm, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, spindle, holly and dog-rose. Whilst at the time it had been badly neglected, Alan and Sylvia also realised its importance as a wildlife corridor for small mammals, birds and invertebrates, providing them with food, shelter and a means of safe movement along its length. Sylvia began a campaign to restore the hedge to its former glory and after much letter writing and lobbying of local councillors, she persuaded the then Avon County Council to lay the hedge in the winter of 1994-1995. After a further period of neglect, in 2009 a group of ‘guerrilla gardeners’ began to clear away the brambles and other rampant plants that had taken over. From this basis, a more formal group began to come together with the help of local people, councillors, council officers and the Henleaze Society, meeting once a month at the hedge to carry out essential maintenance. In more recent years, The Phoenix Hedge Preservation Group was set up in 2011 with Sylvia Kelly as secretary in order to protect and maintain the hedge. Sylvia died in 2016, but her work with Phoenix Hedge lives on. In January, The Phoenix Hedge Preservation Group will lay a further section of the hedgerow at the Phoenix Grove end of the footpath. This part of the hedge is more recent in

The late Sylvia Kelly with Nick Wray, curator of Bristol Botanic Garden origin, having been planted by a local resident on the boundary of newer houses which were built in the 1980s on the site formerly occupied by the education authority school kitchens. Hedge laying is an old craft undertaken around every 10-15 years and which was originally used to maintain stock-proof field boundaries. It is done in the winter as this is when the plants are dormant and is also outside the nesting season so as not disturb the bird population. It involves cutting part-way through the living stem of the trees, traditionally by using bow saws and billhooks, and then laying the cut section, known as a pleacher, along the hedgerow.

The process is repeated along the length of the section to be laid, thinning out where necessary, to provide a continuous barrier as the side branches of the hedge plants grow upwards. It is anticipated that the hedge laying will be completed during the afternoon of January 5, and once it’s taken place the hedge may look a little thin for a while. However, The Preservation Group are keen to reinforce that it will recover and also become a better haven for wildlife as a result. To find out further information about the hedge and The Phoenix Hedge Preservation Group, visit com/site/phoenixhedge/

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Henleaze & Westbury Voice January 2018  

Local newspaper filled with news, views and advertising for local people and businesses in Henleaze & Westbury-On-Trym.

Henleaze & Westbury Voice January 2018  

Local newspaper filled with news, views and advertising for local people and businesses in Henleaze & Westbury-On-Trym.