Wednesday, 22 February 2017

New Hedge for Arbury Road, facilitating cycle lane

Hyper-local (Cambridge) interest post here. So if thats not your thing, walk on, you'll find this dull.

Brief version - cycle lanes will be extended further down Arbury Road, which may necessitate removal of the rather nice old hedge. It has been suggested that mature plants could be sourced to put in place, this being a site thats rather exposed to traffic but worth protecting to shelter homes from the main road and to retain wildlife habitat. I propose that re-planting should be conducted utilising local knowledge of what thrives in this part of Cambridge, with specific reference to the history of the site.

Longer version - Arbury Road is brutal. I mean, its a horrible road to cycle - it should be a quiet little suburban route but its not, the 20mph limit isn't observed there and councillors instruct the Police to target cyclists who seek refuge on the pavement (rather than motorists forcing them to do this) with the dogged determination only possible in those who've just not thought anything through. So if this means we really MUST move the mature hedgerows, then if thats what we have to do to keep people safe then so be it - but as a local interested in having a high quality local environment I'll engage to get the best results.

Now the hedge should be glorious, but it isn't - it hasn't been maintained very well and gaps haven't been filled. Its good wildlife habitat though - but we can make it better. There's some whispering that re-planting with mature-ish specimens may be possible, so I'm choosing to see this as an opportunity rather than a problem. We can certainly manage the site better than it has been done, and if the hedge is planted sensibly we could get a much, much better outcome than we have now. I think that should be the goal whenever we re-develop roads.

So, what do we want in our hedges in Kings Hedges? Here are my first thoughts...

(1) Hedging plants to create a suitable barrier

This is the backbone of hedging, urban or otherwise. A hedge is a structure to delineate a line, and if it can't hold its own in this regard its not fit for purpose. I would therefore propose that a large proportion of the hedge be hawthorn, alongside other native species that are common in hedgerows in this area - blackthorn, hazel, elder, dogwood and field maple. 

(2) Hedging plants of particular local interest

This part of Cambridge was once orchards, and you get the occasional remnant left in hederows, including this one - there's a greengage tree, probably Cambridge Gage, in the hedge, and there are a couple of plum trees that have the look of growing back from root-stock about them. I propose re-planting with more of these - the greengage is a very 'cambridge' tree and its particularly suitable to keep some here as a reminder of local heritage. I'd also add that apples are incredibly common in hedges in Cambridgeshire, so we should aim to add some crab apples to the mix and, most importantly, the one apple variety that defines North Cambridge called Chivers Delight - formerly one of Englands best selling apples, originating very near to here, and worth preserving locally. Cherry plum and bullace are also common in hedges in North Cambridge, far more so than in most areas, so I'd certainly want those represented too.

(3) Under-story planting

We lost a lot of local biodiversity when the Guided Busway was built, and this is an opportunity to bring some of it back. I'd like this project to encompass finding local cultivars of dog-rose, as well as black and red currants, gooseberries (all common on the overgrown old railway line before it was re-developed), alongside three cornered leek, crow garlic, cow parsley, sweet cicely (locally rare but found in this hedge occasionally) and other appropriate wildlife friendly plants. I'll be looking closely at the hedges along Arbury Road over the next few weeks to see what precisely is worth saving from the under-story.

(4) Specimen Trees

I think we all like the occasional tree in a hedge allowed to grow majestically big, and I see no reason not to plan for this. Such trees provide shade, stature and when mature offer a whole ecosystem in themselves. So we should plan for this now - currently the specimen trees close to those hedges are sycamore, but I'd favour linden or plane in this location - they grow at a manageable rate and respond well to pollarding.

I'll add images and further thoughts to this as I go... Bare with me, this is still thinking aloud, but I think the bare bones are here.


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