According to Hooper’s rule, the age of the hedge is equal to the number of woody species counted in a thirty yard distance multiplied by 110 years. It is a bit approximate of course, but interesting. Our hedges are made up of hazel, elder, oak, hawthorn, blackthorn, willow, ash, alder, hornbeam, field maple, oak and sycamore, and maybe a few more I haven’t identified. How many there are in each thirty yards is another matter. One day I will get around to counting. Devon hedges are made of a mound of earth and stone and topped with hedgerow plants -Devon is full of them and most date back to at least medieval ages – ours too probably, given that the fields are based on the original strip fields.
One hedge doesn’t seem so old, which is the short stretch between our lane and one of our neighbours – a fairly modern church. The hedge is entirely made up of hazel, and recently a rotten stump of tree dragged out the bank and spilled into the lane. Today we have been clearing the mini landslide and shoring it back up. It’s amazing how narrow the path had become – no wonder it had become hard to turn the car into the lane!
Using Hooper’s rule the hedge is one hundred years or less old. But there are further clues. The bank appears to have been made up of rubbish – there is all sorts in it, scraps of metal, pottery, broken tools etc. Always, there is blue patterned china…. Of course a lot of the broken pottery made it’s way to the fields with other waste in the collected ‘night soil’.. Still, I am always fascinated by the blue willow pattern pottery fragments. I wonder if the tea cup ( as this was in the picture) was mass produced, or a treasured possession? Was it broken in anger, thrown in an argument, or did it get elbowed to the floor during over excitement? Was a child told off for breaking it, or was it just thrown out as just so much tat? I like this worthless treasure, along with the clay tobacco pipes, the old glass bottles, marmalade pots and hand-forged metalwork. Simple pleasure in simple things.
A little search reveals that the bottle and china both date to around 1920, so perhaps Hooper had it right.