In 2009, I had the chance to create a native hedgerow in my back garden. I was very excited to be able to plant a diverse range of species (at least 25 species) that would quickly form an ecologically rich tapestry of native shrubs, trees and climbers that would provide a home for a wealth of creatures that thrive in this linear woodland habitat.
In the picture below you can just make out the tiny pruned down whips along the left boundary of the back garden. I had already cleared out the old dying lilac and elder from the bottom (hence the brash on the lawn), saving the logs to be stacked into piles to slowly decay at a later date.
After thoroughly digging over the proposed hedgeline I planted the different species of tree and shrub in a single row in groups of seven species at a time.
With a bit of weed pulling here, a bit of mulching there, it was astonishing to see the speed at which the hedge and trees developed.
Within three years I was trimming back the sides of the hedge, and by the fourth year the top and sides needed at least one cut a year, preferably two!
By 2015, the year I moved and left the garden behind, the hedgerow had become just as much a part of my life as it was to the wood mice and hedgehogs, the caterpillars and spiders, the long-tailed tits and dunnocks. Even the neighbour's children could sneak in and play amongst the large elm trunks and tangle of field maple and wild privet, something I'm sure they'll look back on and smile when they're older.
Almost every day I would find the time to walk along the hedge, touching the elder berries, finding the brimstone larvae, watching a wren moving through, and felt warmth in the knowledge that a bag of whips costing a few pounds had become a rich corridor in just six years.
On a final note, I love this last image. There are several ways you could perceive this view. Some would see a block of terraced housing, some would see a washing line with clothes spoiling the view, whilst many people would think it was an outright mess!
I take the same view as the wild creatures that call this home; the morning sun shining into a woodland glade.
No matter where your outdoor space is, if you think like a blue tit or a hedgehog, asking what they would like and ignoring the fact you're in central London, or amidst an arable desert in the wider countryside, you can make any project work for nature.
Text and images by Jim Ashton