Ham Mill hedge completed
The Ham Mill Pound between Stantons Bridge and Ham Mill has seen a lot of activity recently. Dredging the channel is only part of the story though.
Access for the Cotswold Canals Trust (CCT) mini digger has long been hampered by a number of self-seeded trees some of which were deemed to be in a dangerous state so close to an increasingly busy towpath. Examination by arboreal experts determined that self-seeded Ash, Sycamore and Crack Willow trees had not been maintained in decades and should be removed. That task was carried out in January 2017 by Waterway Recovery Group Forestry and some of CCT’s trained Chainsaw Operatives.
Waterway Recovery Group Forestry at work in 2017
Towpath made safe in 2018
CCT Volunteers Bob Hallam and Steve Pickover devised a scheme to plant a brand-new hedge along the boundary line between the towpath and the strip of canalside land owned by Dave Stephens. Dave is a local man and an active supporter of the restoration. Bob and Steve submitted their hedge planting project to Stroud Valleys Canal Company and funding was agreed for a selection of 1000 English Native Specie plants supplied, by Kingsdown Nursery of Swindon.
The selection comprised of 60% Hawthorn; 10% Blackthorn and the remainder were 5% each of Hazel; Field Maple; Spindle; Crab Apple; Dogwood and Wayfaring Tree. The plants were bare rooted whips each around 500mm long. Every plant was supplied with a supporting cane and protective degradable spiral. The spiral protects the plants from the close attention likely to be paid by rabbits and deer.
Deer like to graze on tender new growth
January and February is the accepted season for planting hedges. Steve Pickover and five members of the Stroud District Council (SDC) Thursday Volunteers carried out some preparatory work along the fifty metres length. The team cleared brambles from the hedge line. This cleared the way for another team to commence planting the new hedgerow.
Grateful towpath users
Saturday the 10th February was a wet and cold day. Towpath walkers out and about in the bad weather directed many comments of praise towards the volunteers. Another SDC Thursday team continued the planting on February 15th. The work was completed on Thursday 22nd February.
Bob Hallam explains… “We now anticipate allowing three to four years growth before laying the new hedge to form a stock-proof boundary as well as a wildlife haven along this stretch of canal.”
Mark Whiteside of Kingsdown Nursery, Swindon develops the wildlife haven aspect… “The mixture of plants selected for this job will attract wildlife to the area. Birds such as Fieldfare will thrive on the fruiting trees as they grow and dormice of course enjoy apples and hazelnuts. If the area is kept well maintained, that is to say, if weed growth is kept at bay, then in three years or so the hedge will have grown up to 6 feet high and be ready for laying to form a stock proof margin along the whole length”.
Steve Pickover concludes by thanking the hedge planting teams and landowner Dave Stephens. “The volunteers worked so well in a mix of weather conditions and Dave has been of immense help.”