Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Autumn, the best time to see…

… The Meikleour Beech Hedge in Perthshire. Blog posts from around the world are celebrating the magnificent colours and beauty of Autumn just now. My planned contribution today was to be for Wordless Wednesday. Then, considering there were tall stories to tell, I changed my mind ;-)


Clicking on the image above will enlarge it.


Late this afternoon (camera and daughter in the car) I took the drive along to see (what I’ve always known as) the beech hedges at Meikleour. I was telling my daughter stories of the area en route.

I remember passing by this hedge as a child. I’m pretty certain I visited Meikleour House too with my Grandmother. I’ve a memory of sitting in a kitchen. However, I don’t remember any stories of the hedge itself except that it was pretty tall and perhaps the tallest in the world.

As an adult, I discovered the Meikleour Beech Hedge was in fact in the Guinness World Record Book. It has been the highest hedge in the world since 1966! I’ll come back to the stats later as first I want to tell you what is believed to be the story behind this wonderful bronze wall of beech above.


Let’s turn back time to 1746 and the Battle of Culloden…


The Battle of Culloden (1746) by David Morier, oil on canvas.
Image from Wikipedia.


Many men were killed. A little earlier, in the Autumn of 1745 Jean Mercer and her husband, Robert Murray Nairne planted this European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) Hedge that I stood beside today with a digital camera in my hand. Here I was, trying to capture a photograph of this hedge in autumn when it looks pretty special.

Little did I know then that the story behind the height of this hedge is pretty special too. It is believed that following her husband’s death at the battle of Culloden, Jean Mercer of Meikleour allowed the hedge to grow towards the heavens in a tribute to his memory. I wonder if she imagined it as it is now. I guess she would be pleased.

Now looked after by The Meikleour Trust, every 10 years this beech hedge is pruned using a hydraulic lift and hand held equipment. At 530 metres (1/3 mile) long and an average height of 30 metres (100 feet) it’s not surprising that it takes 4 men about 6 weeks to prune it. Photos usually appear in the newspapers when this is being done.

At the North end (where I was standing) the hedge peaks at a staggering 36 metres (120 feet) in height. As this hedge runs along the busy A93 Blairgowrie road the lower section is more regularly trimmed. Looking closely at my image above you can see that.

There is a little parking (3-4 cars) at the other end of the hedge from where I stood but strangely for something that is a landmark and a world record there isn’t a viewpoint to safely take photos on the opposite side of the road. It isn’t signposted either. That's a pity.

I’ll not leave this on a negative note though. Wonderfully this World Record hedge is providing food for a variety of wildlife. Squirrels (red I hope), Pheasants, Woodpigeons, Rooks, Jays, Chaffinches and Wood mice can all feast on the triangular brown nuts released from the female catkins. Now, that’s what I’d call a legacy :-D


The photo of The Meikleour Beech Hedge shown above was taken on November 3rd 2010.

20 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This hedge is amazing. I have never seen anything quite like it. It has history too. I can't imagine trying to prune it at the higher levels. It is better than seeing them pleached. I wonder how high they could go.?.

Carol said...

It truly is incredible! How wonderful people had the vision to leave it to grow even though it is a bit of trouble to maintain. Being in The Guinness Book of Records helps. Beautiful colors now and great that it offers food for so many critters. I hope the animals and people like you are all safe from harm when visiting these majestic trees. Great historical post. ;>)

leavesnbloom said...

Shirl I never knew the whole story behind the hedge. I've marvelled at it many a time as we have drove past but as yet have never stoped the car to admire it from the road. I think this week in Perthshire is the prime week for autumn foliage colours.

Gerry Snape said...

Shirl...what an amazing story. the beech are looking superb this autumn. The Times today states that this is one of the best autumns ever in Britian because of the weather conditions. Great!!

shirl said...

Hi there Lisa, isn’t it just! Neither have I, but to be honest I did expect that you in the US might have. That puts a new spin on it.

Funnily enough it was only in looking for the stats that I discovered this history. It was news to me. I think, although sad too, it is a wonderful story.

Pleached, I had never heard of that term before. Looking it up, I am familiar with it in fruit trees. One definition states that the practice of pleaching is generally applied to limes and hornbeams to form a dense hedge. It is done by interweaving the branches of well-spaced trees but leaving the trunks prominent.

I agree completely with you there, Lisa. I am very glad this hedge has not been pleached.

As for height - not sure there. Lol... looking up I saw it was getting a bit thin on the top! I guess its years are catching up on it now and there is minimal new growth there now ;-)

ShySongbird said...

I have never seen a hedge anything like it Shirl! It really is spectacular and what an interesting story behind it too.

My first thought (surprise, surprise!) was that it must provide accommodation for many of the local birds and of course food for them and other wildlife.

BTW did you notice on Autumnwatch that Kate said Beech nuts were highly poisonous to humans! Well, I, my husband and at least two other people I have mentioned it to are still here to tell the tale :) My friend and I used to regularly pick them up and eat them on the way to school. I looked on the Autumnwatch message board/forum and a number of people were saying the same thing. One person did say that their mother used to tell them not to eat too many though or they would get a headache so presumably there is some truth in it but 'highly poisonous' was rather an exaggeration I think!

Anyway, Shirl I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the hedge having never heard of it before. I don't think I would want to spend weeks on end trimming it though!

Have a great weekend, how quickly they come round! :)

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

What an amazing story and history on this hedge. It is amazing to look at. After so long I cannot imagine why it has not broken down or fallen apart. It really should have a sign acclaiming its history.

Gardeningbren said...

Oh I so enjoyed this Shirl..I meant to comment earlier but missed doing so. What color and what height. You must have felt in awe to stand there taking a photo. Nice to realize the wildlife the hedge supports and fantastic to know the history. Thank you for that!!

Layanee said...

An amazing hedge with an equally amazing story. I hope to stand beside it someday.

Anna said...

Now that's one mighty hedge and a most interesting tall tale Shirl. Will have to show this post to himself who moans and groans whenever he has to prune our little insignificant beech hedge :)

The Wessex Reiver said...

Blimey what can I add to other comments, that is such an astounding hedge, it's magnificent.

shirl said...

Hi Carol, isn’t it just. Yes, I doubt maintenance was considered at all when it was allowed to grow.

I agree being a record breaking hedge has to mean that it will be looked after. Yes, looking at previous photos this has to be the best season for stunning colour.

Thanks, there is a car park for a few cars which should keep people safe when looking at this spectacular sight. I’m delighted you enjoyed this.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hello Rosie, neither did I before this post.

Although, I have not passed this hedge too often this is the first time I have stopped myself. It isn’t an easy place to stop to get a good view unfortunately.

Yes, Perthshire has been a glorious sight. I expect you have been really enjoying it.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hi again Gerry, it’s great isn’t it :-D

Yes, I have to say I’ve been noticing beech more than usual this year. I had no idea that this year was a good one for it. Thanks for that :-)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hello Jan, me neither… so glad you enjoyed it. I can imagine you thinking your first thoughts :-)

No, I didn’t remember Kate warning on the Beech nuts. Interesting to hear your stories. Thanks for sharing them here. I’m glad you are still here to tell your tale :-)

Excellent, I’m delighted to have shared this story behind the hedge. It was new to me and puts a whole different perspective on seeing this hedge now.

Yes… lol… having a Leylandii to keep in check this hedge would give me nightmares to trim ;-)

Thanks, yes another weekend has passed since this! Enjoy the rest of this weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hello Lona, thanks for stopping by. Yes, this is pretty historic isn’t it? I think there is a sign marking it somewhere but I didn’t spot it from where I stood.

However, there are no road signs to take you to it that I could see. For Tourists that makes it tricky to find.

Enjoy the rest of this weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hello Brenda, I do love to hear that you enjoy my postings :-D

I hope you enjoy the next more lengthy one too. Lots going on there ;-)

No prob re commenting, I have to apologise for not answering my comments before now and not getting round to visiting everyone this week too.

Yes, this hedge was a truly special sight.

Enjoy the rest of this weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hello Layanee, yes it is. Ah now… I would love to take you there!

Enjoy the rest of this weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hi Anna, lol… you might guess I’d like to share a mighty, tall tale. Lol… yes himself should count himself pretty lucky now ;-)

Enjoy the rest of the weekend :-D

shirl said...

Hello again Andrew, magnificent will do nicely! Nice to see you back blogging. Must pop over to see you soon :-)

Enjoy the rest of the weekend :-D