There’s one particular place in our walk, just before we get to where the road goes through a tunnel in the embankment under the railway line. The hedge around that part of the road seems to have been neglected for a good few years. Now, The Dog and I have mixed thoughts on that. Back to nature is good in some cases but we humans have been living in, and modifying, our landscape for, probably, a good few thousand years. This means that quite a bit of our wild life has become accustomed to having hedges around.
Hedges are completely unnatural constructions and left to themselves, over ten or so years they will restore the natural order of things. The strong will deprive the weak of the necessary nutrients and what was a hedge soon becomes a line of trees, with larger and larger gaps as the trees grow and shade out their competing neighbours. It really is only those interfering, busybody humans with their fetish for tidiness that keeps a hedge a hedge.
Now the leaves are almost all gone, the skeleton is showing and interesting aspects of our hedge are coming to light. This tree is this shape because, some years ago, two shoots were used as ‘pleachers’ in a neatly laid hedge. As you can see from the thickness of the trunks that was a good few years ago.
We wondered what kind of tree it was and we discussed this with Google who had two possibilities to offer. One was Field Maple, this is the only native British Maple so it ranks pretty high on our list of guesses. Next was Sycamore. This isn’t a native to these islands but it has been carried around and planted by people on their peregrinations for aeons, and its ancestry is lost in the impenetrable fog of ancient history. These days we tend to blame things like this on the Romans who are, conveniently, currently unavailable for comment.
The main difference between these two types of tree is their leaf shape. This is Autumn and the leaves have all fallen off the tree. It looks like we will have to wait till spring, but we’re going to stick our neck out here and plumb for Sycamore – but it might be Field Maple.