The Trust have created a new group of workers – the ad hoc volunteers. They will be called upon to undertake specific tasks apart from those carried out by the regular Thursday and Sunday groups.
Last Wednesday the group of seven were tasked with cutting back a blackthorn hedge fronting the meadow to the Old Dairy Farm on the B4506 just down from the Estate Office. The brash was loaded and taken back to the estate yard for burning – an all day job.
The original hawthorn hedge is ancient, being planted as an enclosure for cattle back in Tudor times. It has been added to over the years with blackthorn to fill in the gaps, and supported by post and rail , and a wire fence in places.
Strange as it may seem there is a way to estimate the age of a hedgerow – “Hooper’s Law”. To find the answer to this rule of thumb, count the number of species of trees and shrubs found in a one hundred foot length of hedge (30 metres). The number of species multiplied by one hundred gives the number of centuries, so with our hedge containing hawthorn, blackthorn, oak, rose, and elderberry it is at least five hundred years old!
The Old Dairy Farm was first mentioned in 1543 when Robert Eme stated that he had been granted a lease of the “Dayry” House by Thomas Waterhouse, the last Rector at the Ashridge monastery in 1536. When Ashridge was conveyed to Princess Elizabeth in 1550, Eme still occupied the Dairy lands. In 1575 “Le Deyrey” was a house with an old room adjoining called a “Carte Howse”. The initials on the wall of the Old Dairy farmhouse are R. H. E. The surrounding forty acres of meadow land were carved out of the original forest “woodground lately felled”, and would have been enclosed with thorn hedging. In 1838 the Bridgewaters administered the property as part of their land-grab, with their aim of becoming landed aristocrats, and it was subsequently sold off in the 1920’s. It is in private hands today apart from the large open meadow in the south which is owned by the Trust.
The team members in last weeks ad hoc group were Andrew Reeve, Arthur Whiting, Andy Neil, Mike Keen, Tony Deighan and Tony Smart, supervised by Emily.
Thanks to Tony Smart for his contribution on the post.