Kids ‘hedge’ their bets

Bushmills Primary pupils pictured with Dr Cliff Henry. INBM 14-15 HEDGE
Bushmills Primary pupils pictured with Dr Cliff Henry. INBM 14-15 HEDGE

School children recently met at the Giant’s Causeway to plant metres of hedge as part of a National Trust North Coast conservation project, funded by five pence plastic bag levies.

130 children from 5 local schools were invited to the causeway to help area ranger Dr Cliff Henry and his team reinstate hedges formerly lost and replaced by post and wire fencing.

“For the past 50 years we’ve been losing hedgerows,” explained Cliff. “Very few people are looking after hedges the way that they should be.”

Cliff chose hawthorn ‘whips’, or seedlings, to plant in the fields behind the Giant’s Causeway. Native breeds of hedge are well suited to the often inhospitable weather conditions and stony ground typical of the causeway coast - what’s more, hawthorn is very easy to plant.

Cliff and his team spent time preparing the ground, pulling back the soil and removing any large rocks. The children were then invited to grab a spade and get down to the busy task of planting over 120 metres of hedgerow. The ‘whips’ were slotted into holes in the ground and the soil ‘heeled’ around them to secure.

“As a conservation organisation, the National Trust is thinking more about how we can preserve entire landscapes,” said Cliff. “Putting back the hedges is one way of doing this.”

“I hope that the children get a feel for how important hedges are to wildlife. The hope is that in 15 years or so we can do away with the wire fencing where these hedges have been planted. The children will also be able to visit as adults and say that they had a hand in making this happen.”

When asked whether they were enjoying themselves, the children unanimously agreed that working outdoors was better than doing sums.