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Hedgerows are linear strips of woodland and a man-made addition to the Irish landscape. Hedgerows were probably originally planted to mark ancient boundaries to estates, townlands and parishes. The familiar chequered pattern landscape of fields divided by hedges dates from circa 17th Century, when hedgerows were planted to contain and restrict the movement of cattle and other livestock. Hawthorn was planted as the most popular hedging plant because of its ability to form a dense, stock proof hedge in a short space of time.

Hedgerows create a habitat for flora and fauna and provide food and shelter for a variety of birds, mammals, butterflies and insects.

The ash is the most common tree in Irish hedgerows. It is one of the last trees to grow new leaves in the spring and one of the first to lose its leaves in the autumn. The fruits are called lceys and can be seen hanging in clumps on the tree well into winter. Ash wood has many uses, the most famous being the manufacture of hurley sticks.

One of our most well-known and well loved trees, the oak can live for hundreds of years and can grow to be one of the biggest trees in the forest. The seeds of the oak tree are called acorns and these can be collected from under the trees in the autumn that is if you can find them before the mice or squirrels get them! Oak trees provide fine timber, which has been used for centuries in the production of beautiful furniture.

Willows are small trees or shrubs commonly found in wet places and nearly always have catkins for flowers.

The Blackthorn is a very thorny deciduous shrub and common in Ireland in hedges, woods, banks and often forms dense thickets. Pure white flowers appear in April and May before the leaves. Bluish-black fruits known as sloes are used to make jam, wine and flavour gin.

Waterford & Suir Valley Heritage Railway, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Phone: 051 384058
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