Wednesday, 9 May 2007

HSBC HEDGE - MAY 2007 (One Year On)

(Project 13 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

The HSBC Hedge was finished in February 2006 and heavy duty mulch sheet was placed over a double row of 'twigs' (60cm whips with good root systems cut off 15cm above soil line)

Looking north along the Manston Road from the corner of Sparrow Castle pumping station.

The hedge 'sign' at the south end by Sparrow castle pumping station.

The view south towards Sparrow Castle pumping station from the sharp bend.

The HSBC sign on the sharp bend.
There should be a cherry to the left of the telegraph pole but it was run over by one of the five cars that have left the road due to excessive speed on the straights leading to this bend since the hedge was planted. There are thin sections of hedge on both sides of the bend where car damage either in coming off the road or being towed back on to it has ocurred. No one bothers to report the damage so that insurance claims can be made!
The start of the hedge by Sparrow Castle Farm looking south to the sharp bend on the Manston Road.
There are two cherries missing between the one in the picture and the telegraph pole on the bend. Cars have caused more tree and hawthorn damage than the very dry weather in 2006 and the very dry spring so far in 2007.
The mulch sheet and change in planting method has paid off handsomely. A vigorous young hedge is now growing (except where cars keep driving through it!) and a few hours strimming is all that is needed to keep vegetation down along the sides of the hedge.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


(See Site 1 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

The hawthorn is also known as The May Tree or 'The May'. The expression (from oop North) about "'ne'er cast a clout 'till mays out" does not refer to keeping a sweater on untill the end of the month of May but untill the May tree or hawthorn comes 'out' in flower!
The hawthorn or 'May' on the 'hump' opposite Sparrow Castle Pumping Station have never been in such fine blossom, as in the first week of May, 2007! The heavy winter rain and warm spring without rain since 31 March 2007 might be the cause. (click on pictures for more detail)

The 'wild' end of the site with the footpath used by workers walking to Cummins factory from Westgate just discernible to the right of the picture. This end is no longer strimmed and has become a site for Lark's nests and a fox! It is great to see a footpath used for its original purpose i.e. to enable people to walk to work, town or church from their homes.
The view back towards the pumping station after 11 years of care! The foot-path track on the left links to the bridle-way from the Pumping Station to Park Road with a further footpath across the field to Shottendane Road, by the junction with Minster Road, which runs down to Westgate and the Canterbury Road.


Sparrow Castle Farm sits at the corner of The Shottendane Road and Manston Road in Birchington and has become the rendevous for Trees for Thanet with the 'yard' providing easy parking space.

In November 2006, Trees for Thanet was approached by Ursuline College Science Department for help. A 'schools pack' of 30 very small trees (15cm plants in a small compost plug) had been sent to them by The Tree Council and a place to plant them was needed. At Sparrow Castle Farm, Quex Park Estates had already planted 5 limes and it was felt that a thicker copse of trees would set the yard off quite nicely.

On Wednesday 13th December 2006, a teacher and 2 BTEC students arrived after lunch to be instructed in planting and by the end of the afternoon, 30 small trees( 10 Silver Birch, 10 Hazel and 10 Rowan) had been planted. Trees for Thanet then finished off by putting out tubex tree shelters and mulch sheet around each young tree.
The photograph shows the planting site looking east along Shottendane Road towards Two Chimneys Caravan Site in the first week of May 2007. Trees for Thanet had strimmed the area earlier to prevent high growing grass and nettles from shading the small trees despite the mulch sheet squares! It will be interesting to see how such small plants progress and when they will grow out of their tubex shelters!

Monday, 7 May 2007

MANSTON ROAD (Phase 3) REPLANTING (Nov 2006 - Feb 2007)

(Project 14 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

Phase 3 of the Manston Road replant to re-establish a hedgerow that had failed after being notch planted in 2003 by a contractor was to cause Trees for Thanet some problems. There were large areas of Alexanders infestation right on the planting lines; the mild winter and early spring caused early leafing of hawthorns and rapid weed growth and the clearing of very old gaps on Woodchurch Road proved difficult.

Planting began on Saturday 18th November 2006 and was completed by Saturday 24 February 2007. By the end of March all mulch sheeting was on and Trees for Thanet members were ready to celebrate the end of the 10th 'Planting Season'. 1500 hawthorn were planted along the Manston Road down to Woodchurch Road with 19 dessert cherry trees planted at the same time. The method used was to cut well rooted 60cm whips about 12 cm above the soil line and plant them with a 'twig' poking above the soil. This 'twig' would then bud and leaf from the stem. A more flexible lightweight mulch sheet was then placed over the double rows and the edges spaded in. Clods of soil were then placed on the sheeting to combat wind lift until the edges were compacted.

A further 800 plants were planted in the same way in the old hedgerow gaps in Woodchurch Road and a new short hedge planted on the south side of the road upto the houses 100m from the junction. Two cherries were planted behind the larger gaps and one cherry planted beside the house.

A gap in the ancient hedge in Woodchurch Road close to Manston Road reaching the end of the clearing stage.
The 'digging team' hard at work on the cleared and strimmed planting line.

The second row of holes being dug behind the planted front row of 'twigs' by the passing bay in Woodchurch Road close to the Manston Road junction.
The front row of 'twigs' going in on the Manston Road.
The first of 22 dessert cherry trees being dropped off for planting behind the hedgerow.

The view northwards along the Manston Road towards Sparrow Castle pumping station from the Woodchurch Road junction. The canes were placed to let horse-riders know planted 'twigs' were in the ground and the hedge has been curved away from the verge to give traffic turning out of Woodchurch Road a clear view. Even with a clear view, speeding and careless drivers manage to go off the road and a collision on the junction cleared all the hedge on the lefthand side of this picture a few weeks earlier!

A lighter weight plastic mulch sheet enabled the sheet to be placed over each 'twig' and then with downwards pressure, the sharp end of each twig perforated the sheet. Not only was this speedier but the sheet was tighter to each stem. You will see a team ahead of the 'mulch sheeters'; because of the mild weather grass and Alexanders had grown back on the planting line and hand-weeding was carried out before placing the mulch sheet down in February!
The start of the new season's planting and the end of the previous year's. In February the 'twigs' planted in November had already started to leaf as the photograph shows and a little damage was caused to sprouting leaves by forcing the mulch sheet over. The edges of the mulch sheet have been spaded in using semi-circular edging knives; far more effective than square edged spades!

The black mulch sheet progresses south towards Woodchurch Road.
At the last gap planted (as Woodchurch Road approaches Reclamet) a thief lifted 16 'twigs' by cutting the mulch sheet and pulling the plants out. It is estimated that a thief has now stolen 60 plants over the past 6 years! This is very tedious as Trees for Thanet would rather come and plant his or her hedge in one go!
Trees for Thanet were delighted to finish Phase 3 of the Manston Road re-plant! It is believed that the longest stretch of hedgerows in Thanet now runs from Shottendane Road along the Manston Road to Woodchurch Road (HSBC and 3 Phases of re-planting). Almost 6000 plants have been planted into the hedgerows (5,925) and a total of 46 dessert cherries have been planted behind. It is hoped that this will create a riot of blossom for years to come!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

MANSTON ROAD (Phase 2) REPLANTING - March 2006

(See Project 12 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

After finishing laying mulch sheet on the new HSBC hedgerow, Trees for Thanet returned to the Manston Road the following week, on Saturday 25th February 2006. The task was to put a 1000 replacements in the ground before the planting season ended, starting where the previous year's 1025 replacements had ended. The finish of The Manston Road replanting would have to wait until March 2007.
The picture above shows 250, 60cm whips, in the process of being prepared for planting by wrapping plastic spiral guards around the whip and its supporting cane. This particular morning , Saturday 4th March 2006 was the sunniest and warmest of the season.

Trees for Thanet made a mistake in reverting to spiral guards but in a sense, the plastic mulch and cutting down 60cm whips to 15cm 'twigs' in the HSBC hedge was an experiment and it was not yet a proven technique. No one could have foreseen that precious little rain would fall until late May 2006 and that March would be dry!
The digging team in full swing. You can see the occasional plant still surviving from the original planting by a contractor in 2003 and wrapped in its perforated black plastic guard. Trees for Thanet became the object of curiosity of many passing drivers and passengers who had begun to use Manston Road as a route round to Westwood Cross and it was soon realised that they thought they were looking at ASBO kids doing their Community Service punishment!

Planters following up with the front row going in.

The digging team being caught up by planters as the plants laid by holes indicate. The 1000th plant went in 20m on the far side of the gate in the background on Saturday 18th March 2006. The view is south down the Manston Road towards Manston in the distance and the target to reach Woodchurch Road had to wait until 2007!
The drought of 2006 affected this phase of replanting badly. Plants did not have heavy rain to wash soil down to air pockets around roots and was actually light in moisture content whilst planting was in progress. Drainage on Thanet's upland chalk plateau is excellent but dry conditions soon led to water stress. Despite hand weeding, this section of planting suffered badly and so far has the worst casualty rate of any hedge planted by Trees for Thanet with a 5% loss so far. The torrential rain in 24 hrs in late May 2006 put an inch of rain on Birchington and saved this section from a worse casualty rate. Readers should note that commercial planters regard casualty rates of 15% as normal and acceptable!
Lessons learned in 2006 were:
a. On Thanet, with Global Warming creating even drier and warmer springs, mulch sheeting and 'twigs' with generous root growth are essential to get good establishment and to reduce casualty rates.
b. Planting beyond February is no longer an option as leafing has started and enough rain to 'settle-in' plants is un-likely.

Friday, 4 May 2007


(See Project 13 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

Trees for Thanet had embarked on re-planting along the Manston Road from Sparrow Castle pumping station towards the Woodchurch Road junction on the outskirts of Manston in the winter season of 2004/2005, when it heard that HSBC Branches in Thanet and their staff were looking for a Community Project to support financially and practically. HSBC was approached with the idea of sponsoring a new hedgerow on the Manston Road between Shottendane Road down to Sparrow Castle pumping station. HSBC in Thanet agreed to the project, as did Quex Park. This photograph shows the Manston Road in October 2005, from Sparrow Castle pumping station, north, to the house and farm buildings by the Shottendane Road junction. A hedge on the right-hand side of the road would then provide the longest, almost continuous, hedge in Thanet, running from Shottendane Road all the way to Woodchurch Road. The plan was to plant 2400 plants into a hedgerow and plant 20 dessert cherries behind it and to involve HSBC staff who would work alongside Tree for Thanet young volunteers.
This picture shows the whole length of the site to be planted before it was strimmed and prepared for planting. If you look carefully you will notice the sharp bend towards the Shottendane Road. This bend has an adverse camber and is probably the most frequently 'driven off' spot in Birchington. Because of Westwood, traffic levels on Manston Road have climbed dramatically and this posed a potential safety hazard to planters working close to the verge. Prior to starting work a team had to place 'road work' signs and fence off the area to be planted to prevent members inadvertently stepping into the road. Fortunately, no incidents ocurred while we were planting but since the hedge has been planted speeding cars and motorbikes have hit the hedge and cherry trees SEVEN times on their way off the road and into the field. It is clearly going to be a regular ocurrence as many motorists and bikers regard the 1500m straights either side of this bend as an opportunity to do a 'ton' with dire consequences at the bend for most doing 50+!

The site strimmed and ready for planting with a winter barley crop already growing. This project was to see further innovation in planting methods used by Trees for Thanet. For a number of years it had become apparent that dry springs and hot summers retarded growth of newly planted hedgerows. Hand weeding had helped reduce water competition but kilometres of recently planted young hedgerows could not all be hand weeded! To avoid the difficulties and ensure greater survival it was decided to use the same sized 60cm whips but to cut them off, at 45 degrees , leaving a 6cm stem only to be above the soil line. Planting was done as normal into individual holes and hopefully, after being rained in, black mulch sheet was then placed over the double rows. Placing mulch sheet proved harder than expected as a heavy duty sheet was used and each plant had to have a hole cut rather than just poking the stem through the sheet! The mulch sheet prevents weeds physically smothering the young hedge, reduces water competition from grass and weeds and helps retain moisture. It also provides luxury housing for short-tailed voles!
This Isle of Thanet Gazette item was printed on 9th December 2005 and shows the screening fencing between the planters and the road and a double row of 'twigs' disappearing into the distance. Under each twig was the large rooting system for a 60cm whip and this was to prove critical in the drought of 2006! Work began on Saturday 19th November and by 14th January 2006 all planting had been completed. A new planting record was established on Saturday 10th December 2005 with 600 plants planted into 600 holes by 19 volunteers from HSBC and Trees for Thanet in a morning! On Saturday 21 January, work began to put down 600m of mulch sheeting and was eventually completed on Saturday 18th February 2006.
The Trees for Thanet Diary shows the 'season' was the worst for weather affecting work; Sat 3rd Dec 2005-Cancelled due to heavy rain; Sat 28th Jan 2006- heavy frost and frozen ground (Spirals & canes removed from Bridleway Hedge as alternative to mulch sheeting.); Sat 11th Feb 2006- Cancelled heavy frost. Saturdays of 10th and 17th December also had light frosts but planting was able to proceed after 0900hrs!

To mark the end of the HSBC project, HSBC's South East Regional Executive, Ian Legg returned on Saturday 4th March to attend the planting of the 20th and final cherry and host a celebratory reception at The Powell Cotton Museum for HSBC staff and Trees for Thanet. Mr Legg, Mrs Legg and son Mark had put in a morning's mulching on Saturday 21st January with the project. The photograph above shows clearly the double- row with mulching sheet stretching 600m towards Shottendane Road from Sparrow Castle pumping station.
Alex MacNally, senior reporter at The Isle of Thanet Gazette was invited along to join us celebrate the end of the project and The Gazette report showed the two HSBC Branch managers in Thanet, Sandra Neale and Andrew Long helping to plant the final cherry. Two signs have been placed along the hedgerow to tell passers-by what it is and how it happened.
This picture, taken 12 months later in 2007, shows how effective the new method of planting was. (Compare this to the 'strimmed' verge picture and the 'final cherry' picture) It is the same spot after a drought summer of 2006 and total casualties due to weather were a miniscule 16 out of 2,475(0.6%). More casualties have been caused by stupid drivers leaving the road and 3 out of 20 cherries will need replacing as a result of car strike!

Thursday, 3 May 2007


(Projects 11 & 12 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

In the 2002/2003 Planting Season (Nov - Mar) Quex Park began its contract hedgerow planting for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in Quex Park and along the Manston Road. A contractor used notch planting of small 1 year old plants into grass sward and no maintenance was carried out. Dry springs, hot summers and weed competition quickly resulted in a 70% failure rate. Trees for Thanet had planted, at the same time, The Two Chimneys Hedge and The Jubilee Hedge ( Projects 8A & 8). 60cm whips with good root systems , using canes and spiral guards for support, were planted into separate holes and most importantly hand-weeding prevented weed choke and improved moisture retention. The result was good growth and less than a 2% casualty rate.


Trees for Thanet was asked by Quex if it would re-plant all the failed hedgerows and work began in November 2004 in Quex Park. The failures, planted in black mesh guards for support had to be removed and the ground strimmed to soil level before planting each week. By Saturday 5th February 2005, the planting in Quex Park was completed and 1575 plants dug in. The busiest weekend saw The Outdoor Pursuits Club from Ursuline College come out to help plant and the 11 & 12 year olds manged to plant 275 on Sunday 23rd January, making the total planted for the week-end, 600 plants. The Project was suspended on Saturday 4th December as Trees for Thanet diverted for the morning to plant The Ivan Plewis memorials.This project was weeded in the summer of 2005 and spiral guards and canes were removed in April 2007.

Part of the hedgerow in Quex Park in May 2007 with spiral guards removed and hand weeding started.

This project started on Saturday 12th February 2005 at The Sparrow Castle Pumping Station and eventually had to go south to the junction with Woodchurch Road. It was decided that planting should stop on 19th March 2005 as experience was showing that the late plantings were not establishing so well due to early onset of Springs and very dry weather conditions in March and April each year. By the 19th a total of 1025 had been planted.

Fine sunshine but planting on Saturday 5th March had to be cancelled because snow was still on the ground! This picture shows canes and plants being wrapped with 'half' spirals before planting. The 6m Countryside Stewardship headland has been established and the permissive bridle-way was in use. The view is south down The Manston Road towards Manston.

Planting in full swing. The verge and planting area has been strimmed in preparation and the few surviving plants from 2003 can be seen in their black plastic mesh guards. The view is north along the Manston Road with Sparrow Castle Pumping Station in the background. The headland can be seen clearly contrasting with the crop sown to its right.

The start of the 'new' Manston Road Hedgerow in March 2005 .

To complement the hedgerow, it was decided to plant 8 dessert cherry trees behind it. Jane Wenham-Jones, author and Isle of Thanet Gazette columnist 'Plain Jane', was invited to join us on Saturday 26th March to see the various projects and to do the 'honours' with the silver spade and plant the last tree of the season. The Isle of Thanet Gazette recorded the moment.

Jane then wrote about her morning with Trees for Thanet in her column 'Plain Jane'.

The 'season' saw a total of 2,600 Hawthorn, 60 Limes, 3 Laburnums and 8 Dessert Cherries planted on the 3 Projects (Quex Park, Manston Road & Ivan Plewis Memorial)