This remarkable avenue of 150 idiosyncratic yew topiaries can be seen on the estate of Clipsham Hall in Rutland. It was created from 1870 by Amos Alexander, the forester on the estate who lived in the gate lodge and today it is preserved by the Forestry Commission. Within the world of topary I see them as a kind of “outsider art”. The AA on the last picture stands for Amos Alexander.
Well worth diverting a few minutes off the A1 if you happen to be travelling that way.
While I’m sorting out images for the book, here are a few that got left out that show a few of the many ways people choose to topiarise their hedges.
Stairway to Heaven
Not quite a hedge, but I like the arches
A hardy design classic, the simple box
And a modest example of one of my favourite conceits, the battlement hedge…
Trees for Cities are a nice charity who aim to help people to plant more urban trees, which is a great cause as trees make a big difference to the urban environment.
Their website is here: http://www.treesforcities.org/
It’s also worth bearing in mind that hedges are trees too. The individual plants may be humble compared to fully grown trees but they carry all the same environmental advantages and more – they provide shelter for birds, insects and other wildlife, they help to absorb CO2, filter pollution, reduce noise, and they soften the urban environment with a touch of greenery. In the average street there are far more trees planted as part of a hedge than fully grown.
One of the blights of my part of London is people pulling up their front gardens and hedges and concreting over them to create parking spaces. It’s ugly, environmentally damaging and increases flood risk by reducing the amount of soil that will absorb water. Urban hedges aren’t afforded the same protection as their country cousins, but in their own way they are just as valuable in their contribution to biodiversity and the environment. They’re not quite our version of the rainforest, but without them we’d be a lot worse off.
I’m just reluctantly cutting a few images from my book as it has a few too many. This is one I’m fond of, but can’t find a space – an island in a lake with a hedge around it, which seems to me nicely redolent of the way hedges are used to enclose/exclude space. My editor doesn’t want pictures that are only there because I think they are vaguely symbolic though, which is fair enough.
Can’t remember off the top of my head where it is as my mum sent me this one, but I think it is a country house in East Lothian…