Dead Hedges

Written by Christina Wakeford.

No, not your once-living garden hedge which is dying or has died!  Dead hedge is a term for a (wo)man-made structure whose origins pre-date Domesday. There is some evidence for the presence of dead hedges in the early Bronze Age; their function would probably have been a barrier to protect livestock.

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 A dead hedge Photo: Christina Wakeford

 Recently there has been renewed interest, as dead hedges greatly benefit the environment.  A dead hedge makes an excellent habitat and corridor for wildlife - a hibernation place for hedgehogs and a nesting site or shelter for small creatures and birds.  It can be a screen or windbreak. Mine hides my compost heaps and protects my wildlife corner from the north wind.  Importantly, it is a carbon negative structure; it recycles biomass (prunings, discarded Christmas trees etc), so no need for endless bonfires (my original motivation for making mine), or for using energy to transport to landfill.

Here’s how to make one.....

Drive in suitable posts 2 or 3 feet apart in a double row. Make it any length - straight or curved; mine is about 3 feet wide and 5 feet high. Then begin to fill it with woody prunings, laying them horizontally and pushing them down as you go. The layers as they accumulate look most attractive in a rugged kind of way. For a neater look you could weave some pliable prunings (coloured dogwood or willow?) through the posts along the length. The woody material decays extremely slowly and may be continually topped up; I’m still adding to the one I started in 2010.

The best tribute, apart from the silent appreciation of the creatures in residence, came from a visitor who lives in France. On returning home he built his own dead hedge (bonfire laws are very strict there). He sent a photo to Amateur Gardening and won £40 for Letter of the Week! And now his neighbours have taken up the practice. The word is spreading.

St Mary an Eco Church

Written by Administrator.

St Mary’s has registered for a project called ‘Eco Church’ – its purpose is to help as many churches as possible celebrate what they are doing to care for the environment.  At the moment we have a Bronze Award for Buildings, a Silver Award for Land, Silver for Community and Global engagement, and Silver for Lifestyle. The church has met some of the criteria due to factors such as leaving a large section of the churchyard for ‘wild’ growing, and having trees planted. There is also a bio toilet, and we are in the process of putting up bat and bird nesting boxes. As we continue to be able to give positive answers to more of the questions we hope to increase those awards to the next level.

Copies of the church guide/history book written by Roy Tricker are available for £3 – contact

eco church

Jo and Raptor OR Joy and Rapture

Written by Terry Hickman Smith (as published in the Forncett Flyer November 2020).

On one of my morning walks with Nutmeg four or five weeks ago I came across a wounded kestrel at the bottom of the Sewage works footpath. It had a badly damaged right eye, it couldn’t fly and its only defence was digging its very sharp talons into my fingers.

I wasn’t sure how to deal with a wild bird in this state. After a couple of attempt to pick it up – including the bloody fingers – I tried putting my handkerchief over its eyes which calmed it enough for me to hold it. It didn’t really struggle for the whole way home but looked in a really bad way.

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Via the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who recommended a lovely man who said he couldn’t do anything for the bird but put me in touch with a raptor rescue specialist called Jo. Jo runs the Phoenix Bird of Prey Rescue and came over to look at my female kestrel that afternoon. She took one look at it and pronounced that there was nothing she could do. The poor bird apparently had something that sounded to my deaf ears like Trowse Trichosis. I later found out it is actually called Frounce Trichomoniasis – a horrible virus endemic in pigeons who are not affected by it. It is thought, after much research, that where pigeons drink they leave a trace of the virus and if a raptor drinks soon after the raptor can catch it. In raptors it leads to blindness, damaged hearing, weakness, digestive problems and death. Great disappointment.

However the lovely Jo said she would try. There might be a small chance that a course of anti-biotics might help alongside intensive care and careful feeding. She took the female kestrel away and I thought that would be the last I would see of her.

About two weeks Later Jo phoned to say that, against all expectations, our kestrel was responding to treatment and was getting stronger. This week (last week in October) Jo rang again with the amazing news that she (the kestrel that is) was ready for release. Today, 29th October Jo brought her here and we released her by the bridge where I found her. It is Jo’s policy to release the birds she rescues from the place where it was found – seems eminently sensible. After a bit of a struggle to get out of the box she flew off in a big arc and landed in a tree by the footpath. Apparently that was a good release. She looked strong and happy to be flying again. Pity it was raining but preferable to release in rain than keep too long in captivity.

The big lesson to me was to have acted quickly. Another few hours may have triggered a less happy outcome. If you find yourself in similar circumstances please do act quickly.

Jo at Phoenix can be contacted on 07914 661385 and her website is www.phoenixbirdofpreyrescue.org.

Musicals & Swing at St Mary's Church

Written by May Prior.

Director & Producer Paul Blake, & the cast of 'Ensemble' performed 'Musicals & Swing' to three packed audiences in St Mary's Church. They included a variety of show favourites, such as Miss Saigon, Les Miserable, Sister Act, Cabaret, and a selection from the 'Rat Pack' era. A finale from the Lion King had the audience singing and clapping.

Laura Macdonald - No one but you from 'We Will Rock You'

Photos by Richard Ball - Click on pic for more

A HUGE thank you to them all for their hard work in putting together and performing the show, helping to raise funds for the on-going restoration of the church.