Text sizeA A A LISTEN TO THIS WEBSITE Sound icon
homeworld heritagevirtual tourvisitors informationcontact ussite map
Top navigation banner
home page

Darwin

HOME DISCOVER DARWIN PROJECT NEWS WORLD HERITAGE WHERE DARWIN WORKED Cudham Valley Darwin's Home and Family Darwin's Scientific Neighbour Downe Bank Downe Valley Downe Village Hedgerows Holwood Keston THINGS TO DO AND GAMES MONTHLY WILDLIFE GUIDE HOW TO GET THERE VIRTUAL TOURS EDUCATION DARWIN NOW RESEARCH CONTACT US LINKS

Bromley logo and Lottery Fund logo

 

Hedgerows
   

Hedgerows

 

Linking the woodlands throughout the site are species–rich hedgerows and belts of woodland known locally as shaws. Many of these were left hundreds of years ago when land on either side was cleared of trees for farming. As well as marking boundaries and keeping animals from straying, the shaws and hedgerows were valuable sources of wood for fuel, fencing and furniture for the local people. They were also often refuges for plants and animals of semi-natural ancient woodland such as bluebells and dormice. Many of the hedges were laid every 15-20 years so they remained thick and stockproof. When Emma Darwin first moved to Downe she wrote,

"At the edge of the table land on which the village and house stand are steep valleys crowned at the top with old hedges & hedgerows very disorderly & picturesque & with enormous clusters of Clematis & blackberries and a great variety of yews, services &c." (Emma Darwin, notes on Down House and neighbourhood, CUL DAR 251)

Species typical of hedgerows and studied by Darwin in the Site were black bryony, white bryony and spindle, which can still be found, often in the same places where he studied them. In his book on different climbing plants, ‘The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants’ (published in 1865), Darwin described how black bryony twines towards the sun, but the tendrils of white bryony are stimulated by touch. He reported how the spiral contractions of white bryony tendrils (see photograph) result in a spring-like mechanism and suggested that this acts as a shock absorber protecting the branches from being torn away from their supports in high winds. He wrote,

"I have more than once gone on purpose during a gale to watch a Bryony growing in an exposed hedge, with its tendrils attached to the surrounding bushes; and as the thick and thin branches were tossed to and fro by the wind, the tendrils, had they not been excessively elastic, would instantly have been torn off and the plant thrown prostrate. But as it was, the Bryony safely rode out the gale, like a ship with two anchors down, and with a long range of cable ahead to serve as a spring as she surges to the storm."

Caught tendril of Bryonia dioica. Note the straightened portion where the spiralling direction is reversed, a device, Darwin explained, by which self-twisting is avoided.


hedgerow.jpg

 

bryony.jpg

 

blackbryony.jpg

 

tendril.jpg

 

Setting The Boundaries Naturally


Download the attached information leaflet to learn more about our valuable hedgerow habitats and how you can conserve these important features that Darwin studied.

Download Document


          		hedgerow leaflet.JPG