I’m just back from the beautiful North Norfolk coast, where I have been working alongside Deepdale Backpackers and Camping to develop and lead their latest conservation weekend, planting native species hedgerows. This is the third year that Wild Influence has worked with the team at Deepdale to deliver works on the campsite and farm all aimed at further enhancing Deepdale for visitors, delivering benefits for wildlife and providing enjoyable experiences for volunteers.
Making Deepdale brilliant for people and wildlife
Since Jason Borthwick and his team took on the management of the backpackers and campsite in 2016 they have been working their socks off to deliver a range of improvements. Jason is passionate about doing this in a way that benefits wildlife as well as people. I advise on planting mixes and designs for hedgerows as well as some remedial works to start to bring the woodland at Deepdale Farm back into good order, and I support Jason and the team in running safe volunteering weekends. This includes setting the context of work for volunteers by talking about the history of the area and features like hedgerows. A big part of these weekends is sharing Deepdale with people, making sure they enjoy themselves and giving them a sense of ownership over their work. Many volunteers come back to Deepdale during the summer to see how ‘their’ hedgerows are doing.
Over the course of the latest weekend, 15 volunteers planted over 1300 hedging plants and 70 trees to add structure and interest to the campsite. Existing hedgerows on the campsite had become patchy over time so volunteers added additional plants to fill gaps. In return for their awesome efforts, volunteers are put up for the weekend in the backpackers and very generously fed. The motto of the latest weekend was ‘Never Knowingly Under-Catered‘.
Hedgerows rich in variety
Hedging plants have all been chosen to provide a mix of structure, colour, foliage and fruit. The backbone is 60% hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, with a mix of field maple Acer campestre, dog rose Rosa canina, dogwood Cornus sanguinea, beech Fagus sylvatica, hazel Corylus avellana and crab apple Malus sylvestris. We used a similar mixture last year for other hedgerows in the campsite, encouraging volunteers to ‘be random’ and choose a variety for each hedgerow while ensuring that hawthorn runs through everything.
Plants are placed in pre-dug trenches (this can be done with a farm vehicle in advance and saves a lot of time and backache) before the trenches are backfilled by volunteers. Finally, they mulch the planting area thoroughly with cardboard and woodchip – the free-draining soil at Deepdale along with frequent periods of drought makes for an ideal campsite but does mean that young plants can struggle for moisture in the first year or two when root development is so crucial, and weeds can quickly overwhelm plants if not kept in check. The hedging plants are all dipped in a gel containing mycorrhizal fungi before being planted – this acts as an extension to the plant’s own root system while it establishes, helping it to take up nutrients.
With some beautiful trees planted around the campsite including oak Quercus robur, Norway maple Acer platanoides, alder Alnus glutinosa and silver birch Betula pendula, the campsite looks genuinely lifted. I’ll be one of the people going back to Deepdale this summer to see how it’s all developing.
A film about hedgerows
Author Henry Williamson farmed at Stiffkey, just down the road from Deepdale, between 1936 and 1946. He recounts his experience in this beautiful short film from 1972.