Transition Homes CLT has been restoring the boundaries of the Clay Park site in Dartington, and we recently held a two day workshop on building a traditional stone-faced Devon hedge bank. Six eager participants and I [Nicola, CLT coordinator] were led by Martin Stallard in creating a new section of bank to fill a gap where there had been a gate between a stone pillar and an oak tree. Filling gaps in the existing hedge network benefits wildlife by creating a continuous wildlife corridor, as well as providing additional habitat.
Building the wall was incredibly satisfying! Ahead of the workshop an earth bank was built by mini-digger, and our first task was to dig a trench in which to lay the foundation stones. As each course of stone was laid the void behind was backfilled with earth, which was compacted with a lump hammer, to stabilise the stones. Each side of the bank took on its own character as there were teams of three working on opposite faces (I think our side is more charming, of course!). We made fantastic progress, but didn’t quite get to the top so Martin will soon return to finish building the bank to the same height as the adjacent bank, and the top will be planted with traditional hedge row species.
The following week Martin led a one-day workshop in restoring an existing bank near the entrance to the site. This involved digging out part of the collapsed bank to create a flat base, during which we unearthed a small stream of water which sprung out of the base of the wall, and turned the ground underfoot into a muddy, slippery bog (thankfully most of us were wearing wellies!). You can see from the photos that this section of wall looks very different to the new section we built the previous week: in this one the stones are placed vertically (to match the existing bank), in the new one the stones were placed horizontally, which creates a different character.
Horizontally laid stone in new wall
Vertically placed stone in restored wall
On the same day Myrtle from Wild & Curious foraging led a group of kids, parents & grandparents on a wild food exploration of Clay Park - although some of the kids were more interested in the badger setts, pile of stone, and running around in the long grass! Afterwards they enjoyed a picnic lunch together with wild tea made over the fire. Myrtle had visited Clay Park in all seasons over the last year, and is putting together a wild food map of the site for us which we'll share so that residents & the local community can discover the abundance of wild goodies!
More photos from both events are on our Facebook page (you don't need to have a Facebook account to view).
There is a public footpath through the field so we encourage you to go and appreciate the new and restored walls, and the hedge which was laid during a workshop in the autumn, which should soon start shooting.
Next, we’ll be planting a community orchard at Clay Park for future residents and the community to enjoy – a mix of fruit and nut trees. Join us on the afternoon on March 18th (2-5pm) to learn about establishing and caring for young orchard trees, and lend a hand with the planting! Hot drinks & cake will be provided.
These activities are funded by the Postcode Local Trust, supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery - this has paid for tools, materials, Martin and Myrtle's time, and lunches for participants from Sima at the Kitchen Table. We’re also delighted to have commissioned Landworks on the Dartington estate to make some benches for the site using funds from this grant.
If you would like to learn more about hedges in Devon, the Devon Hedge Group website has some excellent resources: http://devonhedges.org
Contact Nicola with any queries on firstname.lastname@example.org