April 09, 2011

At the beech

In one of the little parks near our house the leaves on the beech hedge are opening like tiny, corrugated fans. Bright, acid green, it is only when they emerge that the previous year's leaves are dislodged; all winter long the hedge has been tan-coloured and rattly in a stiff breeze, and now, suddenly, it is fresh and green.

Beech makes an attractive ornamental hedge in gardens and parks, but is rarely used in the countryside as the leaves are much prized by all kinds of stock animals, who, left to their own devices, will eat the entire hedge. Having said that, one of Britain's most notable hedges is of beech: the Meikleour beech hedge in Perthshire, Scotland, the tallest hedge in the world at 30m high.