Astral Park hedge

This is a300 metre long native species hedge between the lake and the playing fields on Astral Park Plus, overlooking open countryside on the eastern edge of Leighton Buzzard.

In  summer 2014 Leighton Linslade Town Council  approached South  Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth to ask them to  work with them on  planting a native hedge that was good for wildlife and  which would also  provide a wind break for those playing and  watching football.

South Bedfordshire  Friends of the  Earth had previous  experience  of planting native shrubs  in the adjacent field in 2008  by the willow plantation, and they also  took advice from the Greensand  Trust  who had recently  planted a hedge with the community on the RAF Stanbridge site. The soil is very poor and hard to dig so it was agreed that LLTC would dig a big trench and fill it with  compost. It was understood that any planting on this type of clay soil takes time to establish; South Beds Friends of the Earth had previous experience of doing this at Knaves Hill.

The best value  supplier of hedging was  the Community Tree Trust based at Clophill, Bedfordshire, and their plants had the advantage of  being grown from native Bedfordshire seed. Some large shrubs (@ 1.5 metres tall) of willow, alder, hornbeam, buckthorn  and hawthorn were planted  in order to create a wind break as soon as possible, followed by some medium-sized shrubs in blocks, with some small whips at the entrance. One of our aims was to create  blocks of different  species so that when  the hedge had become established it would be a great educational tool for the local school and local community, so that people could learn  to recognise their native species.

The hedge was planted in  November 2014 with members of the local community.  We planted 27 native  species, three  apple trees and one plum tree at the entrance. We also planted an area  with ivy and honeysuckle as these are  both very important for bees and butterflies. We also planted hawthorn, blackthorn, buckthorn, beech, holly, broom, oak, ash, buddleia, alder, willow, hornbeam, guelder rose,  wayfaring tree,  dog rose, field rose,  dogwood, field maple, hazel, birch, alder buckthorn, crab  apple, wild pear, elder,  and  wych elm.

In early 2015 the hedge flooded due to problems with drainage in Astral Park, and a lot of  shrubs were lost. We worked with the town  council  and helped to  dig some drainage.  However , well over half of the hedge is now  growing well.  The holly, beech, buddleia and elm suffered a lot from the flooding, but  surprisingly the broom  and gorse are growing well, even thought they usually like dry conditions.  The wayfaring tree and wild rose have done well, and it looks as though we will achieve our aim of providing  well over twenty native  varieties of hedgerow shrubs and trees  to be used as an educational tool  as well  supporting wildlife.

In addition, a lot of the taller trees are growing well and creating the windbreaks we wanted. In 2015 with local residents we planted ten hornbeam trees that were donated by the Community Tree Trust.

The main maintenance workload has been weeding, as the thistles can take over and smother the  young shrubs.  We have held a number of work parties winvolving volunteers from South Beds Friends of the Earth and local residents, and on one occasion we had an evening session with 22 Young Explorers who took part in a 3-hour weeding session.

Piles of weeds after a successful work session!