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!

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