Renovating a hawthorn hedge

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Hi,

My property has a 30m+ long hawthorn hedge running alongside a road. It's in a conservation area so I'm probably expected to renovate the hedge using native species but prioritising on hawthorn (no laurel allowed). The hedge is in terrible condition as large trees and shrubs have been allowed to grow at various points and the hedge itself is riddled with ivy. There are also a number of fence panels, including reed, hit and miss, etc. It's a really untidy mess and I just can't decide what to do with it. Ideally, I'd just have a thick hedge which was good for security (so lots of thorns) but also provided privacy - hawthorn isn't the best as it drops its leaves in the winter.

I've looked online and I've come to the conclusion that the main reason the hawthorn is in such poor condition is because it's starved of light - the trees and shrubs are bad enough in terms of blocking light but the ivy has completely overwhelmed it and the fence panels only make it worse as they don't let any sunlight through at all.

My strategy is to remove all of the ivy, etc., remove/prune all of the trees and shrubs and cut back all of the hawthorn to just 7' high - it's much higher than that at the moment. I think I'll have to bite the bullet and remove all of the old fencing as well and I'll run some screening tarpaulin (not fully opaque) on the inside of the hedge for privacy until the hedge has grown a bit thicker. In the meantime, I'll add in additional hawthorn whips to fill in the gaps and I might look at adding some blackthorn, holly and firethorn as well to provide a bit more privacy in winter.

Any opinions, ideas or comments are very welcome :)
 
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It sounds like you're on the right track.
Unfortunately it's nesting season which severely limits what you can do until August.
Removing trees in a conservation area generally requires permission - it's an easy and free process, so is worth doing to save potential hassle.
 
Sorry about the delay with this - I was waiting for the gardener to top off the hedges before I could provide any meaningful pictures. I've attached three: 2432 is from the garden side, 2438 and 2440 are from outside. As you can see, there are large gaps which I don't think can be fixed by laying the hedge. I just don't like the idea of removing everything other than the hawthorn because there will be nothing left in some areas and I don't know how long it would take to fill the gaps with new plants. I haven't had any luck with hawthorn cuttings either so I'll have to buy them in no doubt. I've done the other side of the garden's hedges easily but that side opens out to a farmer's field picture 2427, so the resulting gaps actually ironically make it look better and they're already showing new growth.
 

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It sounds like you're on the right track.
Unfortunately it's nesting season which severely limits what you can do until August.
Removing trees in a conservation area generally requires permission - it's an easy and free process, so is worth doing to save potential hassle.
Thanks - I got permission for all the conifers which havejust grown huge - the rest of the trees/shrubs have just been a matter of pruning.
 
Personally, I wouldn't have cut thorns.
Normally they should be left and layered across the gaps as low to the ground as possible so the new growth grows vertical This coupled with some new planting and dead hedging fills the gap.
 
Personally, I wouldn't have cut thorns.
Normally they should be left and layered across the gaps as low to the ground as possible so the new growth grows vertical This coupled with some new planting and dead hedging fills the gap.
I'd say 50% of the hawthorn was dead anyway as it was completely strangled by huge amounts of ivy. Most of the large gaps are because we'd pulled (with almost no resistance) the old hawthorn that was rotten. The resulting gaps were/are just too large to layer it but I take your point on the stuff that's 7' high. Unfortunately, once I've pulled all of the ivy and magnolia away, and once I've removed the young trees (sycamore, etc.), we'll be left with huge gaps again and it's impossible to get all of the ivy out whilst saving much of the hawthorn. Most of it is rotten anyway because the ivy's already killed it - lack of light I guess.

Having said all that, it's the first time I've ever done something like this. I'm sure you would have done a much better and more informed job than me (you probably don't have the same level of horror I have looking at it!) but there's no-one locally that I could get to do it - I asked the local farmer but they could only suggest replanting the lot or putting a fence up. On the farmer's field side, some of the hawthorn is already regrowing strongly so I can try layering that and hopefully get a bit of practice before attempting the other side :)

What do you mean by "dead hedging"?
 
Dead hedging is a term where one drives in stakes and layer in cut off branches to fill a gap so it looks tidy..It can be a temporary barrier to give any live wood or newly planted whips time to grow.
 
As regards trying to propagate from cuttings - surely there are hawthorn seedlings all over, you just need to look for them? There is hawthorn over the road from me and over the back fence, and I am always finding hawthorn seedlings in my garden, presumably spread by birds.
 
As regards trying to propagate from cuttings - surely there are hawthorn seedlings all over, you just need to look for them? There is hawthorn over the road from me and over the back fence, and I am always finding hawthorn seedlings in my garden, presumably spread by birds.
Only the May Queen will flower, though.
 
What do you mean by "dead hedging"?

I have just finished a section of this in my garden, so below are some photos.

The boundary was a mess; a couple of panels, some wire (ordinary & barbed) and some chestnut paling. Most of this had fallen down or been pulled down by ivy. What I have now might not be tidy, but it is lot better than what was there beforehand.

As well as marking the boundary in a somewhat better fashion I wanted something to stabilise the ground a bit. It slopes down from R to L and also towards the POV.

I pulled / cut off the ivy, bundled it up an put it in as the bottom layer. That was layered in but the branches were poked in at a shallow angle to try and make them catch and so cause the whole mass hang together. I got this from a mate who has done dead hedging at an English Heritage place, that is how he was taught to do it.

The photos are L to R, going uphill.
 

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