Saturday, 12 February 2011

Ballyquintin Hedges

I spent the day hedge-laying with seven other volunteers at the National Trust's Ballyquintin property at the southern-most tip of the Ards Peninsula in County Down.

Ballyquintin is a 64 acre farm set amid rolling drumlin countryside at the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula, beside the Ballyquintin National Nature Reserve. The property is located in one of the most secluded parts of Northern Ireland and is great for walking with stunning views across the Strangford Narrows to the Isle of Man, and of the Lecale coast stretching south towards the Mourne Mountains.

A path, suitable for wheelchair use leads to an old World War Two lookout tower.

The land is let for farming and is managed to provide habitats suitable for the Irish Hare and a number of species of bird that are declining nationally. An increase in the quality and quantity of the hedgegrows is particularly important towards achieving this aim.

There have been quite a few hedge-rows at Ballyquintin and we wish to encourage wildlife, such as yellowhammers and other small mammals; indeed we spotted a buzzard hovering near us today.

Hedge-laying is a craft and it takes time to master it. It's something one gets a feel for - sensing how far to give a hawthorn branch its first cut; where to begin the cut; when to stop sawing and start using a bill-hook to prise the remaining "ligament" in order that the branch bends sufficiently without breaking it (which does occur!).

We all took a sack of hawthorn logs home with us.

I am for the Dirty Duck Ale House in Holywood this evening, though I'll drink fruit-juice.

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