Friday, 26 March 2021

Keyline planting - in the depth of Oxfordshire

 While out walking last autumn, I  stopped to check where the path went, and my eye was caught by this view:

 Ignore the finger post, look beyond it to those very neat rows of hedges.

Looks weird, huh?

Is it a very minimalist maze?

Did someone plan a very, very long-term proposal in morse code, intended to be viewed by drone, when the time was right?

No - this is called Keyline Planting, and it's all about using the natural contours of the land to assist with irrigation, to reduce soil erosion, and so on.

Not the sort of thing I would expect to see in the depths of Oxfordshire.... but then I thought to myself, why not? *pauses to scratch head* Why was I so astonished to see it?

After giving it some thought, I realised that I was surprised because it's an expensive method of agriculture: it involves redesigning your entire field layout, in order to make your fields align with the natural contours of the land. So it's not something for the average farmer: and despite the house prices, south Oxfordshire is not a wealthy area. Why, in my own town, two of our "pound" shops went bust, a couple of years ago! (We still have two others, though.)

And that's why I was surprised to see it.

 Looking at the map once I was back at home, I'm pretty sure that this is all part of Sheepdrove Farm, an establishment which definitely has eco-credibility! They also do natural burials, and weddings, so they have pretty much cornered the market, from one end to another. One of my friends was their Head Gardener for some years, and I was privileged to be taken on a tour, which was very interesting.

It seems likely that they would embrace Keyline planting, or something very similar, and that's what I think it is.

So, next time you are out walking in the Lambourn area, keep an eye out for strange hedge formations!



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