March marks the start of spring in the calendar and we are all looking forward to longer days and the Park greening up with new vegetation. On sunny days I've heard skylarks singing over the farmland fields and the rooks by the stables are busily (and noisily) building nests. From today, the park and walled garden are open from 8am until 6pm to make the most of the sun.
The wardens have planted nearly 4000 hedging whips in the last few weeks, with the final ones going in this week. It can be hard work in the mud and frost but a cuppa from the kelly kettle can makce all the difference, especially if there is a fire to warm up by as we burn the brash from the laid hedge. As usual the planted hedges are 80% hawthorn, with a mixture of hazel, field maple, crab apple, guelder rose and blackthorn making up the rest.
Last week I attended a course at Hatfield Forest on caring for veteran trees and veteranisation of younger trees. It was fascinating, and a chance to admire some wonderful ancient trees - hornbeam pollards and layered hawthorns that are many hundreds of years old. Veteran trees are an invaluable habitat for so many species of insect, bird and fungi and it is important to have other trees nearby that will provide the same habitat once the original veteran has died - this is where veteranisation may be key, if an age gap in the woodland exists. Holes, decay, cracks, water pockets - these features can be encouraged in younger trees to mimic the veteran tree habitats.