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Hedges and Hibernaculum at WBOA

Last week’s work party was postponed because of high winds and rain and took place instead on Thursday November 9th – a lucky choice, as the weather was fine and dry, if a little chilly until we got working. 15 volunteers turned up to be briefed by John and Val: there were three main focuses – continuing work on the hedge on the east side of the site, led by Ed with his chain saw; the construction of a hibernaculum in the test pit that had been dug as a potential pond a couple of years ago on the south side; and scything and raking away the leavings along some of the less used paths in the north-west corner of the site.


First, the construction of the hibernaculum. Wikipedia has this explanation: ‘A hibernaculum (plural form: hibernacula) (Latin, "tent for winter quarters") is a place in which an animal seeks refuge, such as a bear using a cave to overwinter. The word can be used to describe a variety of shelters used by many kinds of animals, including insects, toads, lizards, snakes, bats, rodents, and primates of various species.’ As we currently have no bears in West Beckham – to the best of our knowledge – we hope that this hibernaculum, once finished, will provide shelter for insects, toads, lizards and hedgehogs. Val, Bev, Susan, Elizabeth and David H worked on this very creatively and look forward to putting the finishing touches – probably a hessian covering topped by turf – next week.

The hedgers continued the attack on the hedges begun on October 19th, when Ed lowered the height of the high, thick, ivy-clad hedges around the shed. This time, he moved slowly northwards on the east-facing hedge, making significant progress but leaving a few bits of high growth for bird shelter close to the bird feeders. John, Andrew, Stu and Nick helped to saw up the fallen branches and drag them to the fast-growing heap beyond the pond, ready for use as dry hedging next week.

Meanwhile, Nigel, David R, Brian and Sean scythed and raked paths before joining the hedge management team. Andrew and Stu also did some shed and bird-hide repair at the end of the morning. And last – but by no means least – I spent most of the morning scouring the perimeter hedge for whips planted a while back to see which had survived. Sadly, a large number of them were dead – overshadowed by the tall hedges and/or planted in poor soil – and the tree guards and bamboos had to be removed. In doing this, I managed to lose my glasses but didn’t realise this for some five or ten minutes … After ten minutes’ frantic searching, treading very carefully lest I trampled on them, I miraculously found them despite not having any glasses on! I think there is a moral here somewhere.

All in all, an excellent morning – very well organised and with everybody really pulling their weight. Next Thursday (the 16th November) is the next work party – at West Beckham Old Allotments again.

Peter Maingay

November 9th 2023

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