The hedgerows bordering Glastonbury’s lanes house some of the most impressive old trees in miniature. Nobbled, gnarly and knotted, an avenue of dwarfed forests line each side of the road providing a natural boundary, a corridor of protection for wildlife and clarity of direction for vehicles and walkers.

Without leaves, the internal structure of the hedge can now be seen. Foraging birds pick their way through the branches, now forced to feed in full view, revealed and vulnerable, as their green curtain is lifted. One can imagine being a little person, borrower size, lost in the epic woodlands, or imagine that one is a giant peering into the wooden crags of a fairytale woodland.

The ash, sycamore and elders in the hedgerows along Wellhouse Lane are especially impressive, an entwined miniature ecosystem that has been cultivated over the decades by the local farmers. As one walks in the late afternoon, the low sun glints through the rows, highlighting the density and complexity of the winding thickets, trunks reaching over each other serpent-like. In some places, what appears to be three substantial trees actually stem from the same lain trunk, its branches fuse together again above the surface. Each year they make a grow for it, piercing the sky with spears of new growth, and each year they are trimmed back. The result is halfway to bonsai, the trees usual 30 metres of height is squashed into a metre and a half, one could be lost for days in the intricate features of these warted, witchy fingers and forearms.

The hedges have been recently shorn. It’s sad to see the extent of the collateral damage this method of hedge care causes, with it’s indiscriminate flails hacking through anything in its path, removing a great deal of the berries that might provide winter feed for the avian population, and causing great scars in the trunks of the more substantial specimens.

On the bright side, the resulting natural sculptures are a sight to behold and the mass cutting of the hedges within a few days of each other opens up fresh lines of sight across the fields as the low winter sun picks out the lone standing trees and paints them elongated across the landscape. I like to imagine that the countryside had a haircut and is stepping out with a brand new confidence.

The End

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Matt Witt

Author Matt Witt

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