Saturday 12 December dawned fresh, cool and dry after a night of rain – ideal conditions for the work of digging and clearing we are currently carrying out on the Green preparatory to planting a hedge next winter along the Green’s boundary with the recently extended housing development of Longfield Crescent. In fact, according to an 1870 map tracked down by the Secretary of the Friends of AMG – which shows open fields where the housing estate is now – we will be rejuvenating part of an old boundary line consisting of hawthorn trees that once ran from the railway line, along what is now the south side of the Green, the south side of Redberry Grove, and on to meet Sydenham Park Road.
Some of these trees are still living. We will reduce them in height and insert new hedging plants between and slightly in front of them with the aim of growing a new thick, mixed species hedge. The hedge should provide food (hawthorn, holly and wild privet berries, rosehips, and hazelnuts) and nesting sites for birds as well as sloes which could be foraged for gin-making. But before we can plant, we need to remove an expanse of bricks, rubble, and lumps of cement that have been dumped onto the land over time and are now buried underneath it, shrouded by overlying brambles. Then we need to prepare the ground. On our workday, as we forked energetically into the earth and turned it over, we were conscious of the small lives we were disturbing: the fleshy worms, wood beetles, spiders, slugs, and the acrobatic frogs that would suddenly leap into view. We relocated the latter to a safe spot close to our pond.