- Education and Science
Beautiful Walks Along Fife's Hedgerows And Woods
Lochore Meadows Country Park
The main area around my home for walking the dogs is Lochore Meadows - still known locally as 'the meedies'. 'Meedies' is a very old Scots slang word for 'meadow'.
Part of the country park's work - maintained by Fife Council - is conservation work and this includes the hedgerows and local forests.
Not only are these areas great for exercising yourself and your dogs, but hedgerows and woodlands in the UK are often steeped in history as well as natural wonders.
Woodlands and hedgerows history and uses
Basically a hedgerow is a line of trees, shrubs and bushes that from a hedge and act as boundaries for fields and meadows. Many hedgerows in Scotland and the UK are very old and mark original field boundaries.
In the past the hedgerows were used by people for not only food but timber for building and fuel. In addition, hedgerows give shelter from the weather to livestock and crops as well as being essential habitats for wildlife and plants.
In addition, not only are they havens for plants and animals, they may also have a significant role to play in reducing the effect of green house gases by the ability of hedgerows to store carbon. This is one of the main reasons, as well as nature conservation, that the UK's beautiful and precious hedgerows should be a high priority for preservation.
Other reasons why hedgerows are important is their ability to prevent soil loss as well as regulating water so reducing flooding - an issue that has become increasingly important in the UK over the past few years. Hedgerows are also able to store water as well as cleansing it of fertilisers etc. Hedgerows are also an important source of pest control. The reason is that it gives shelter over the winter to animals who feed on insects that would otherwise destroy plants and crops.
Woodlands of course speak for themselves. As well as supplying timber, fuel and food, these beautiful areas are home to a wide variety of wildlife, shrubs, flowers and of course trees. In Scotland, up until the 18th century, about 80% of the land was covered in woodlands. Due to climate changes that didn't favour tree growth, as well as a growing population and increased demand for wood, the forests only inhabited about 4% of the land by the early 20th century. Today this figure has increased to about 17%.
There is an increased movement towards not only planting new forests, but sustaining the historic woodlands that are left. Our woodlands however, are not just beautiful places to visit and home to animals and plants, they are essential for a number of other reasons. For example:
- stabilising soil,
- giving out oxygen and storing carbon so reducing green house gases.
Flowers of the hedgerows and woodlands
The walk that I take my dogs on takes in both woodland, hedgerows and a small marsh area just inside Lochore Meadows. At this time of the year you could spend hours with a camera taking photographs of the numerous scenes, trees, flowers and wildlife. I've included some of the main flowers found on the walk both along the hedgerows and along one of the wooded trails.
A very pretty flower that can be found in many hedgerows around this area of Fife. In the past this flower's seeds, when crushed, were used to treat snake bite. This is interesting as the only venomous snake in the Scotland - and the UK - is the adder. One of the alternative names for Red Campion is 'adder's flower'. How often it had to be used is anyone's guess, since the adder is generally a very timid and placid snake.
Bumblebees and butterflies visit this flower often and quite a few species of moth eat the foliage.
Scotland has a number of wild rose species and two found along the hedgerows at Lochore Meadows are the Dog Rose and Sweet Briar. These beautiful plants attract a large number of insects in the summer and birds later on in the year when the 'hips' are visible. The scent of these roses is lovely, especially on a warm day just after a shower of rain. Rose hip syrup and rose water can be made from these plants, especially from the Dog Rose.
The wooded trails
To finish off I'll show you some of the lovely plants that are found along the wooded trails that I often walk.
In the photograph you can see the Northern Marsh Orchid with its beautiful purple colouring. It's surrounded by the pretty and well known buttercups.
There is no mistaking the beautiful golden yellow flowers of the gorse bushes that are abundant in many areas of Scotland including hedgerows. It's used extensively by birds, insects and mammals.
Called either Yellow Iris or Yellow Flag, this is a large beautiful flower that is found in wet/marshy areas. These flowers are found in a marshy area on one of the woodland trails where the trees thin out a little before going back into the thicker wood.
Enjoying nature at your back door
I hope you've enjoyed this quick tour around the hedgerows and woodland at Lochore Meadows.
I realise that because I live in a semi-rural area it's easy for me to get out and about into the countryside. However, nature is all around you - even in a city. Just put your walking shoes on, take your camera and start to look around - you'll be amazed at what you can find even just outside your own back door.