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A Week on the Estate: Scraping Tracks, Releasing Buffs & Coppicing Hedgerows

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Spring has sprung and the estate is blooming. The snowdrops have had their day and daffodils have taken their place. Over at Driby, primroses are thriving on the ditch sides.

Out on the land, Andy Mettham has helped us repair the estate’s farm tracks. Over time, wear and tear from tyres means that soil builds up down the centreline of a typical track. A thorough scrape from Andy’s digger and we were good as new again.

After a long winter indoors, our Lincolnshire Buff chickens will finally get to enjoy the spring weather. Not only has the incubator been warmed up for some new additions to the flock, but the risk of avian flu has been downgraded to ‘medium’. Official housing restrictions for poultry will end at midnight on 31st March and our chickens can’t wait to get out and forage in the Walled Garden again.

A new season means new life all over the estate. Last weekend, the Saturday Club re-planted some hedging plants (they call them ‘hedglings’!). They also trimmed tree shoots on Lime Tree Avenue to encourage healthy new growth. There were gorgeous daffodils everywhere.

Further afield and on a slightly bigger scale, we’re busy coppicing nearly 1,000m of mature hedgerows. Coppicing is the ancient technique of cutting trees and shrubs down to ground level to harvest old wood and stimulate new growth.

The hawthorns in some of our mature hedgerows are showing signs of rot. These hedges are unfortunately too big, too woody and too old for hedge-laying by itself to rejuvenate them. Left as they are, the hawthorns could get top-heavy and snap off at the root. Any new planting would be shaded out and wouldn’t thrive.

The season for hedge coppicing runs to 31st March. We’re coppicing in early spring as the trees are just waking up from dormancy and are primed for new growth. We’ll allow most of spring and summer for light and air to get into the foundations of the hedgerows, and they’ll continue to serve as wildlife corridors. We’ll start re-planting at the end of 2021.

Everything on the land has a natural lifespan, and coppicing is a time-honoured way to press the re-set button for mature hedges.  We’ll get healthy new growth and the old wood will be chipped and used here on the estate, to bed cattle or keep the ground dry at stiles and kissing gates.

Last but never least, we published the latest instalment of ‘Our Days’, a series inspired by the memoirs of Kathleen Brown (1915-2020). This week, two people closely associated with today’s South Ormsby Estate, Jacqui Rhodes and Caron Ementon, reflect on the friendship they shared with Kathleen, and what her memories meant for their 21st-century Lincolnshire lives.

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