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Our dead hedge takes shape

June 2005: We collect significant amounts of woody material that is really unsuitable for composting as it's too large. Hull City Council helped us earlier this year by removing the waste for shredding and use in their parks and gardens. However, the woody waste is a permanent part of what we collect, so we need a self-sufficient solution, and preferably an ecologically-friendly one.

We tried (1) storing the waste on site, and we tried (2) taking it straight to the recycling depot at Wilmington. Neither method was satisfactory. The stockpile on the allotment grew and grew, and the conditions at Wilmington proved very uncongenial.

We needed a third way - and we found it! The June issue of Gardening Which ( explained the idea of a "dead hedge" - used to protect coppices of young trees from deer and cattle. Dead hedges are also great wildlife habitats - dry at the top (spiders, birds) and damp at the base (beetles, frogs and toads), plus eventually lichens and fungi will grow on the wood.

The photo above shows the results of about an hour and a half's work by 2 people. We have got rid of the backlog of woody material from the site, and are ready to extend the hedge week by week as more material is collected.

There are lots of sites with information about dead hedge activity. We give a short list below.

Read more about dead hedges:

The first record of a hedge in England - 547 AD
It was a dead hedge, which would have been gradually colonised by live shrubs. Read about it on Leicester city council's website
The BTCV website
has clear notes on different methods of construction
Contributors to the Channel 4 Great Garden Challenge
include 2 garden designers who are creating a circular dead hedge enclosing a bench and small pond. Wild life will make homes in the hedge, the top will act as a raised bed, and contain climbers and foliage plants.
The Planting of the Penny Hedge in Whitby:
every year 3 Whitby citizens go to the woods early on Ascension Day, cut stakes, and build a dead hedge on the foreshore, at the low tide mark. It must be finished by 9 am and be able to withstand the force of 3 tides. This custom has been observed from 16 October 1159. Why would they do this? Read the story at