Trees and hedgerows

 

Sir, – Richard Romer clearly loves trees, and suggests that the Forest Service, in responding to ash dieback, should “rehabilitate its reputation” by initiating a broadleaf reforestation programme on our hedgerows (Letters,July 18th).

While most people would cheer on any increase in broadleaf woodlands, and indeed trees in any spare corner of the countryside, the solution to the dieback problem put forward is deceptively simplistic.

Over many years I have had the good fortune to be able to plant and observe a varied range of trees, and to curate an earth-bank hedgerow (or, rather, have myself curated by it). The latter had recently lost eight or nine mature elms, in the early 1980s, and appeared irrecoverable.

Initially, and as the authorities predicted, there was regrowth to two or three metres, when the elms again appeared to die.

However, and without the insertion of Dutch elm disease-resistant strains, there has been a natural recovery; presently the elm have recovered to 10 metres or more, and locally either root-produced or blown seedlings are plentiful enough to ensure an ample survival.

Having observed this natural history I am less pessimistic about ash dieback than Mr Romer may be. I have topped ash over the past few years, but they are still largely dying. However, some appear unaffected, and one can note a remarkable amount of healthy saplings, which I fancy is simply evolution going about its business.

I am startled by Mr Romer’s vision of how hedgerows might be planted in the future. For example, the placement of Scots pine, pine (I presume pinus nigra), silver fir and eucalyptus (which can demand startling volumes of water) would seem antagonistic to the nature of a hedgerow, which must also provide cover, food, passage and breeding environments in a very varied habitat. While some height is essential, a big vote then for our old familiars – holly, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder, hazel, rowan at least – as well as brambles, honeysuckle and even nettles.

I think we are being gently teased when Mr Romer suggests the addition of sequoiadendron, or else his predictive text misread rhododendron: in either case, the mind boggles! – Yours, etc,

JOHN AUSTIN

CONNOLLY,

Booterstown,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Richard Romer is correct in stating that our hedgerows should be enhanced via a broadleaf reforestation programme using trees such as oak and holly. They are species-rich wildlife corridors providing cool shade in our ever-hotter summers.

However, in Fingal and especially near Swords, the local hedges are being decimated by housing developments. They are replaced, if not by a fence, then by a single tree every metre rather than the seven plants, typically hawthorn, per metre found in hedgerows. Housing is essential, but surely hedges should have a conservation order placed on them. They are often too all that is left of Fingal’s historical agricultural landscape and give people a sense of place.

Surely Fingal County Council should be proactive in this matter as habitats are abolished with one swing of the JCB? – Yours, etc,

ANN LYNCH,

Ballyboughal,

Co Dublin.