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  • Writer's pictureGranny Bonnet

Building a Dead Hedge

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Photograph of dead/dry hedge being built
Preliminary stage of building a dead hedge

March 2019

Dead hedges are piles of branches and twigs arranged to form a barrier, a way of creating a useful structure which disposes of twiggy material arising from thinning or clearing woodlands and gardens.

Tree surgeons call this waste material of saplings and side branches ‘arisings’ whereas foresters tend to call it ‘lop and top’. I call mine a ‘bloomin’ nuisance’ which is usually piled up over weeks if not months, until bonfire-sized.

Using surplus branches in this way is very good for wildlife—especially for small mammals such as hedgehogs and birds because it gives them somewhere safe to shelter out of the wind and rain. It's also good for insects. Dead hedges in effect create a linear eco-pile where insects will gather and, in turn, attract lots of birds, particularly hereabouts, wrens and dunnocks who will be, I understand, the first to appreciate a roof over their heads whilst dining!

As the material gradually rots down over the years, it provides a habitat for beetles and all the creatures that need soft, rotting wood for a home and because you never empty a dead hedge it lies largely undisturbed, giving succour to wild visitors and residents, while at the same time solving a waste-disposal headache. Just think—no more loading the car with mucky garden waste and a saving of fuel by not driving to the official tip!

I’m definitely going to give it a try. I have just the place near our bonfire site. I need only drive in suitable posts in a double row about 3 feet apart and gradually fill it with prunings. I fancy an attractive curve in mine similar to the picture, right, which has been used to keep dogs from trampling tadpoles in a public area. Maybe I’ll get adventurous and try to artistically layer it with different materials such as conifer, hawthorn and holly.

I’m not quite sure what my husband will make of all this as he loves a bonfire. I think we’ll have to come to some sort of compromise…

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