Wednesday 8 March 2017

Arbury Road - Hedge to facilitate cycle lane, part 2

There was a visit arranged to a supplier of relatively mature hedging plants on Monday. I couldn't go, but I sent off some questions - some for the supplier, some for the County Council. Basically the way I see it there's a good chance that we can get better cycle lanes along the next section of Arbury Road and that will, in turn, lead to more demand for a good facility along the whole length of the road.

But I won't surrender perfectly good, potentially historic hedging without getting things absolutely right, so here's the email full of questions I sent...

Dear (*),

I'm copying our County councillior in to this, because she's expressed an interest. I'll also put most of this online because, well, why not?

I've been wandering up and down the hedges on Arbury Road and I've got a few thoughts to add to my earlier blog post on the subject here:

By a fortunate/unfortunate happenstance (depending how you look at it) there was another mix-up at the City Council and they killed one of my hedges over winter, so I've been reading up on re-planting more mature plants recently, and I've been looking at companies like Elvedon. I'm also a life-long forager and hedgerow and conservation nerd, so since I moved to Cambridge back in '99 I've become quite familiar with the local flora and indeed with how feasible re-planting is. Obviously its never ideal, but I firmly believe that in this instance we've a great opportunity to make things better. Most of the hedges on Arbury Road haven't been well managed for the long-run, and down at the Nicholson Way end especially they're really rather gappy.

Which brings me to the questions, some of which are for you, and some for the folk at Elveden or someone else...

(1) Whats in Elvedens 'native mix' and how well does it line up with the list of locally appropriate trees I've outlined in the blog post linked above? Is this drawn from the list of other hedging plants they've got?

(2) Can we obtain some other trees to fill the gap between what Elveden supplies and what I've requeted? I'm especially keen to get some Cambridge gage in there, its a tree formerly cultivated very widely here, and it would be a shame not to replace the ones we'd lose from the current hedge. And Chivers Delight Apple is a tree so very much part of the history of North Cambridge it would be a crying shame not to sneak some in - this area was orchards at one point after all.

(3) Does the native mix contain any cultivars that would make good 'specimen' trees where space permits, and is that part of the plan?

(4) Whats the management plan for the hedge going forward? Do we plan to get it to a similar height or is there a plan to cut and lay it more as a traditional barrier? How do we envisage it in 10 to 15 years time?

(5) Is Elveden the right company to talk to about under-story planting to turn this into a more genuine multi-species hedge (which of course is way more valuable for wildlife) or would this be something to talk to the City and County Councils about, or even someone like TCV? Or is this something where you'd want community involvement in to re-plant with local biodiversity? There aren't currently many exceptional things growing under the hedge, but there's been the occasional example of upright hedge parsley and sweet cicely (common in many places, surprisingly uncommon in Cambridge).

(6) The route of Arbury Road is fairly old, and the hedge especially by Nicholson Way is an interesting relic in itself. I'm not sure how old it is, but Mere Way/Carlton Way/Stretten Avenue is a Roman Road and Arbury Camp (now under the school on Orchard Park) is pre-Roman, so its likely that Arbury Road has been a route used by people for a very long time indeed. Has the plan to dig here been cross-referenced with data from the county SMR? There's certainly a lot of well documented Roman era archaeology under the Kings Hedges area, I'd be un-surprised if digging this hedge turned up some interesting things. One would think that the age of Arbury Road might suggest there would have been a ditch by the hedge, which may have been excavated when the estate was built. If it wasn't, its definitely worth looking for, especially if the hedge is to be moved out further from the road into where the old ditch would have been. And as some of the other hedges in Kings Hedges retain just the occasional strange relic from eras gone by (there's a patch that frequently throws up Alexanders, Smyrium olustratum, a vegetable favoured by the Romans, on the rec ground behind St Laurences) can we perhaps reflect that in planning an under-story for the hedge?

Anyway, thats enough of a brain dump for now. Let me know your thoughts, and what can be done with Elveden.


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