At the end of March 2015, Tower Hamlets Homes planted a new mixed native hedge at Matilda House to improve wildlife habitat and provide a more attractive boundary along St Katharine’s Way and Thomas More Street.
A line of trees along much of the southern boundary of the estate is mostly made up of typical hedgerow species, such as Field Maple, Hazel, Hawthorn and Cherry-plum. This strongly suggests that it was originally planted as a hedge, probably about 30 years ago, judging by the size of the trees. However, it was never managed as a hedge, instead being allowed to grow into a treeline. While some of the Field Maples have become quite nice trees, most of the other species are rather spindly, due to being so close together. With an objective in the new Local Biodiversity Action Plan to plant more mixed native hedges, it seemed a good idea to start restoring this treeline into the hedge which it was originally intended to be. Residents were consulted and approved the idea. It was agreed that 56 metres of hedge would be created this year, with more to follow if this first stage is successful.
As Matilda House is in a Conservation Area, work to trees over 75 millimetres girth at chest height requires planning permission. It was therefore decided to leave the larger trees, mostly Field Maples, as standard trees to emerge from the hedgerow. The smaller trees were coppiced – cut back to ground level so that lots of vigorous shoots will re-grow. Over 350 small trees and shrubs were planted as bare-rooted “whips” to fill in the gaps between the existing trees, and to create a second row half a metre inside the existing treeline. A double row of shrubs will help to ensure a good, thick, bushy hedge when they are all established. The lower branches were removed from the larger trees (allowed as permitted minor works which do not require planning permission) to allow more light to reach the newly-planted saplings and coppice regrowth.
A wide variety of native shrubs were planted, including Hawthorn, Hazel, Blackthorn, Dog Rose, Wild Privet, Honeysuckle, Sallow, Holly, Guelder Rose Spindle, Crab Apple and Common Buckthorn. The last of these is the caterpillar foodplant of the Brimstone butterfly, and its inclusion contributes to another Local Biodiversity Action Plan objective.
As the hedge matures, it will become a great habitat for birds and invertebrates, and provide an attractive outlook for residents, and for people walking along the adjacent streets.
Photos by Veronica Suwara