The Daily Telegraph

Hedges providing a vivid glimpse of autumnal habitat

- By Joe Shute

AUTUMN is upon us. Not the widely reported “false autumn” of recent weeks, as leaves drifted from the branches of exhausted trees frazzled in the summer heat – but the actual season proper.

Meteorolog­ical autumn officially started on Sept 1 and I feel it in the misty mornings and darkening nights.

I hear it, too, in the rapid footsteps of children in new school shoes, gossiping about the summer. But above all, I see it in the hedgerows.

I’ve been tasked with sorting out an allotment, one overgrown with mature hedges that have run out of all control. Hacking them back into some semblance of form I have watched autumn’s arrival in close-up.

The blackberri­es are nearly done, gorged on by drowsy wasps and flies that have lost their summer zip. The hips and haws are fat and scarlet and elder berries bruised a deep purple.

Birds are beginning to stake out breeding territorie­s; wrens and robins scolding between the dewy spiderwebs and thorns. And through it all float an abundance of speckled wood butterflie­s, the yellow in their wings the colour of autumn itself.

It is only when you get close to a hedgerow, I mean really close, that you begin to appreciate them as distinct habitats in themselves.

Like hay meadows, or coppiced ancient woodland, they also benefit from being sculpted by human hands. There is even a national hedgelayin­g championsh­ips, held each autumn by the National Hedgelayin­g Society of which the King is patron.

The society was formed in 1978 to preserve the art of hedgelayin­g as rural skills dwindled and hedgerows were gobbled up in the post-war demand for ever-enhanced food production.

According to society guidelines, the ideal hedge must be not too closely cropped as to give wildlife room to flourish, but neither be left too wild and unruly.

Contemplat­ing my efforts so far, I fear the championsh­ips a little out of my league. But its annual trim should see it through another autumn at least.

 ?? ?? A rainbow at Buckingham Palace yesterday
A rainbow at Buckingham Palace yesterday

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