That shelter is 'half meat' (i.e. food) is an old saying on the Borders, and, in confirmation of this, I may mention that my late friend, Mr. Faunce de Laune of Sharsted Court, found that a sheep shelter he had put up paid, in fourteen days' time, interest on the outlay incurred in making it. He had two lots of sheep, which were being fed on oilcake, and which were regularly weighed, and the increase of weight in the lot that had the benefit of the shelter was such that it, in a fortnight, yielded the financial result I have stated. Although, however, the facts previously given are well known it does not seem to be, at least practically, known that shelter affords a very large increase in the growth of food for stock. I have long been aware of this, but was more particularly struck with it this year (1904) in the case of the Harewells field, which is fully protected on one side by a plantation, and partially so on the other. The field was young grass, and was cut for hay, and it was interesting to note that as you got away from the reach of the shelter the yield of grass gradually declined towards the unprotected portion of the field, and, probably, to the extent, in the most central portions, of about 25 per cent. But if the stock and the grass require shelter the plantations, when young, equally require it, and perhaps in a greater degree, and it is of obvious importance to devise some means of at once sheltering stock, grass, and plantations, till the last has grown sufficiently to afford the desired shelter. The following remarks with reference to shelters for hop gardens and orchards have been supplied to me by the kindness of a friend, and I have no doubt may be useful for the information conveyed, and as a means of calling attention to the whole subject, so that improved methods of sheltering young plantations, stock, and grass may be devised.
With the view of providing practical protection for a young plantation I am experimenting with larch poles about twelve feet in height, and six feet apart, with stays on the sides from which we have our strongest prevalent winds. From pole to pole I am putting stretches of rabbit wire netting, and such a structure will sift the wind (to use a Kentish expression), or divide it, and so break its force to a considerable extent, and for a considerable distance. (After a three years' trial I find that we have had most satisfactory results from this shelter. It alters the character of the wind entirely, and does away with those fierce, rotary gusts, which whirl plants round. The value is proved by the growth of the plantation, which is most satisfactory, and its site is on one of those windy passages in the hills which are swept by the severest blasts.)
I shall probably connect the poles with rope or wire, besides staying each pole on either side. Should rabbit mesh prove so small as to get snowed up, a larger mesh might be used. When the plantation has grown up sufficiently to afford the desired shelter the windbreak might be removed and used for another plantation. I may mention that on this property we have a narrow strip of plantation running up the slopes of the hill to between 800 and 900 feet above sea level. It is very narrow towards the upper end -- about forty yards wide -- and, seen at a distance, resembles bare poles against the skyline, with a faint streak of green at the head of them. Yet these poles, so the shepherd reports, distinctly diminish the violence of the wind. At Clifton-on-Bowmont, at an elevation of about 600 feet, I have been surprised to find the sheltering effect of firs, and other trees, in a plantation about thirty yards wide, and which is merely a collection of tall poles with some branches at the top of each tree.
With the aid of the new grass and deep-rooting plant mixtures I have suggested, stock can be kept in the fields much later than they can be at present, and as the old forms of shelter (ditches and banks, with trees on the top, and hedges, all affording much shelter) have to a large extent been removed, or allowed to decline, fresh forms of shelter are most urgently required. So strongly, indeed, is the desire for shelter that on this property, a great many years ago, a tenant agreed to pay, and did pay, my predecessor the interest on the cost of making four blocks of plantation for the centres of as many exposed fields. Plantations, too, are the more urgently needed for protecting the game, and especially the nests, which were formerly well protected by the hedgerows and banks. Each plantation should have a grass margin within the fence of about fifteen to twenty feet, and this should be planted with occasional bushes, and sown with seeds of the tall grasses, so that birds could be provided with comparatively safe nesting quarters. At present it is customary to plant close up to the boundary fences, and when the trees grow up the plantation is then of little or no use for nesting purposes. I now proceed to give the remarks that have been sent to me from Kent.
Hop Shelters or 'Lews' in East Kent
These are now generally made by planting the Black Italian poplar in rows along the outside of the gardens, principally on the west, south, and south-west sides, about three feet apart, and brushing up both sides of the row close in every year, in the winter and spring. These plants are easily raised by putting in the ground the shoots that are cut off; they grow very fast, and. are allowed to get up about eighteen or twenty feet. A row of Austrian pines planted not too close together, and a row of poplars a little way off, make a splendid 'lew', but takes up a good bit of ground.
How far these 'lews' will act depends on the conformation of the ground. If it slopes up away from the trees, of course they will not shelter the crop so far away as they would if the ground sloped down away from the trees, or even if it were level. On quite level ground, I should say they would be useful for 100 yards. Of late years a very coarse kind of cloth has been made, and sold cheaply, of coconut fibre; this is fastened to stout poles about eighteen or twenty feet long, and about as big round as small scaffold poles. It is put up in the summer, and taken down in the winter, the poles being let into the ground, and supported by a wire from the top to the ground.
Sometimes we see a 'lew' made by putting poles in the ground as close together as possible on the windward side of the garden, with a cross piece near the top just to keep the tops the right distance apart; this is bound on by coconut string or wire. This does not make a very good 'lew' by itself, but is useful for stopping up gaps in a live 'lew'.
These poles would be the ordinary hop poles from fourteen to sixteen feet long, and about nine or ten inches round above. the ground. They would be put in about eighteen inches.
Sometimes the coconut lewing is fastened to these hop poles; for hops very often it is not put within five feet of the ground.
The poplar 'lews' are by far the best; they grow very fast, and, if brushed in close every year, they get very thick with young shoots, which have large and tough leaves.
Next: Appendix 6
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