Hedges and Herons


When we first moved into our present house in 1999, it had an eight foot high privet hedge running all along one side, between us and the park. I quite liked it, as it gave us a degree of privacy from people using the park facilities, and also acted as a shelter and windbreak.

I remember, when I was a little girl, privet hedges were not quite so popular, and, of course, we had stick insects … my sister went on regular forays to “borrow” from the neighbours’ hedges to supply sustenance for our pets. My father had planted Lleylandii, a quick – growing type of conifer tree that very soon became the bane of his life as he tried to trim and shape them. They remained resolutely wild and … hairy, smelling of cat pee and harbouring small brown spiders with white markings on their backs, like hot cross buns …

What is it with men and hedges? Eight years after moving in, my partner decided it would be a good idea to rip all the hedge out and replace it with climbing roses, fuchsias and the like … I tried my best to persuade him not to do it, pointing out it would take years for the cover to be replaced. Faced with the answer:


The hedge’s days were numbered and, much to my regret, it went. I insisted we kept half.

img_6630-2My back garden… I wish!

Apparently though, this is one of the things that has led to flooding where I live. People are ripping up their hedges and their front gardens to make way for paved patios and parking. The natural soakaways are gone and some areas are now prone to flash flooding when it rains, causing damage and misery.

These front gardens were such a bonus when these houses were built. A little patch of earth to plant some bulbs and nurture a lawn, a treasured symbol of going up in the world … hope, that after the slum clearances finished around the 1930’s, that things were looking up … promise, a young couple’s first home, away from the necessity of “Living with Mother”…

We are a nation of gardeners, after all. (My secret celebrity crush is Monty Don …) Perhaps this love of gardening bloomed with the prospect of owning our own little piece of land. Although I love the grandeur and glory of the gardens attached to stately homes, I also enjoy humbler, more accessible gardens.

At this point, I feel I must confess … I’m not the world’s best gardener. Possibly too impatient, as I like to dig things up to check on their progress, to compare them with pictures on the Internet and berate them for not behaving as they should … Despite this, we have a reasonable garden, filled with a variety of plants designed to encourage bees and butterflies.


Not really herons, though. My partner has a pond, stocked with goldfish and shubunkins, home to frogs, newts and a pair of toads. Some of the fish are older than our sons, who are 17 and 22. Indeed, some of his fish knew him before I did. Justly so, then, he is proud and fond of his fish, and we have been lucky enough to have had several lots – litters? – of baby fish.

One morning, it, was an early spring morning, so still quite fresh, I went outside for the first cigarette of the day. I lit up, inhaled with relish and looked around the garden…

Have to cut the grass soon… that clematis could do with tying up… not sure what that heron wants, but it can’t stay there… WHAT!!”

Sitting on the hedge was an enormous grey bird. It was huge and splendid. I froze, somewhat afraid, actually, because it was the biggest bird I had ever seen in real life. It was sitting, quite unconcernedly, looking in the pond – oh dear – from the top of the hedge, and it turned to regard me with great, round, golden eyes.

I was at once struck by the elegant, yet powerful neck, the sweeping black eyebrow feathers and long, sharp beak. The compact, feathered body, neatly clad in business suit grey and long, scaly, greenish legs. It was Jurassic.


Um, I’m afraid you’ll have to go elsewhere… you can’t have these…”

I stammered nervously.

What was I thinking? With a beak that size, it could come in the house and I’d make it a cup of tea if it wanted … It looked somewhat contemptuous at my words and shook its wings out, with a sound like flapping sheets, then slowly rose into the sky.

I was transfixed. As it flew steadily and majestically away, I was reminded of nothing more than its prehistoric relatives, the Pteradactyls of years past, its snake – like neck folded in, legs tucked underneath and massive wings beating.

My partner was horrified. And at once purchased a net to cover the pond, although I drew the line at a plastic deterrent heron. Now our hedge is gone, the pond is not such an enticing sheltered fishing spot. I still see the heron, though, as there is a large country park to the West of us, where I presume it has better fishing grounds.

Its silhouette is unmistakeable in the sky, a remnant of our pre – history, sailing monstrously against a skyline of houses and taller buildings… out of place, somehow, as if its backdrop should be huge trees, ancient forests and old times…


All photographs Copyright © 2016 Alex Marlowe

68 thoughts on “Hedges and Herons

  1. Herons remind me of home, where I grew up (in the Lincolnshire fens) there are huge drainage ditches and Herons were a fairly common sight. When we we to visit my mum the other day we saw one and showed the children. I’m quite glad we weren’t close up though as you’re right, those beaks a best left well alone!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They’re amazing to see in flight..we have a hardy fuchsia that grows quite happily here. I recently discovered ( according to a gardening programme, not personal experience!) that you can eat the little fruits…they’re supposed to taste like grapes…!


      1. Samantha the supervisor…..not too tough a cookie I hope😉. I can picture you supervising with a large straw hat and a glass of iced lemon tea….saying “you missed a weed there!” You are such a fun person ha ha! Have a great Sunday my friend😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I hadn’t really thought about it, but now you mention it, herons are very prehistoric looking, yes. Impressive though. They use to raid my dad’s pond too. It was only a small pond, in suburban Purley. I always used to wonder how they found it!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hmmn, good point. Maybe a friendlier dinosaur? Like the sneezy one in Jurassic Park? Probably would use up all your Kleenex stash though… Maybe they just needed antihistamines…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, and if he was one of those creatures that can only swallow a tablet if they throw their head back…well he would have whiplash and probably have caused some collateral damage to his surroundings…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Felled fuchsias…wrecked roses…that really would give my partner something to complain about! He caught Ting digging a piddle hole in the flower bed…lol…I think he sees it as a personal attack – whenever he digs a hole to plant something the cats assume it’s for their benefit!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Could I perhaps venture to suggest, just a thought of course, that if you call your cat Princess it is perhaps no wonder she thinks she has a Master of the Stool??

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Oooh wait a minute… Only now I realise “privet” is a plant!! I assumed it was something like “privacy”! I was thinking you had a great big “privacy hedge” around your garden! 😂 How silly of me! If I ever do get stick insects (I’ve seen them for sale here once) I’ll be sure to get that plant! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lol! Sorry I should have said..privet is a quick growing shrub like beech or box, used for hedging. Quite easily obtainable now so you should be all right. As for the mystery of the disappearing stick insects…I have a feeling our cat at the time may have …eaten them!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post! Too bad about the hedges. (Hedgewitches and stick insects alike are shuddering.) Glad you’re looking after the butterflies and bees, though! The Great Blue Herons we have here are magnificent! They are a fixture on Lake Muskoka where we have the family cottage, although sadly their population is waning due to pollution, the infestation of cormorants which compete for food and territory, and human interference. It’s always amusing to see them stalking their prey, still as a stick (“This is not the heron you are looking for. You do not see me.”) Then, the inevitable “JOT!” as they impale their fishy dinner. We get them in Toronto (which, of course, is on the shore of Lake Ontario and is a cobweb of creeks and rivers) as early as February. Celebrate your herons — you’re lucky to get them! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you, Samantha. I’d love to post pics of our herons, but I simply don’t have any! The best time to see them at the lake is early in the morning, when there are no boats out and all is still. Because I’m fond of sleeping in, I rarely get up early enough to get out and see them!!! My sister, however, takes her kayak out almost every day and captures magnificent nature photos, including the herons. (You might want to check out her work on Facebook — her name is Nancy Barrett. She recently posted about a particularly crafty Great Blue that learned to move away from the water and make a very lucrative living hunting juicy chipmunks in the woods!)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well now, if you’re not on Facebook, don’t bother. While it has its amusements, as far as I’m concerned it’s a huge time waster that can get pretty awful sometimes, what with all the trolls. I think you and PaperPuff are wise to stay away from it.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. I feel like an idiot as I am clueles when it comes to shrubs and gardening with the exception of vegetable gardening. I moved to my adopted state of Maine (USA) a year before you moved ~1998. I came from the city where one walked or took public transportation to living up an 800′ steep gravel driveway that goes up into a mountain. We have about 50 acres which, with the exception of our yard, are all woods. I’ve worked over the years to make part of it animal friendly so that wildlife had salt blocks etc in winter. I don’t have the patience for flower gardening so my first year here I planted many perennials. I also planted my first vegetable garden which I turned into a science project because I researched so much. I put down gardening plastic that kept weeds from popping up, had everything lined up and marked. The only thing I didn’t do was research how much the typical yield from each plant. I had so much zucchini and eggplant that I felt like tossing them into open car windows when I went to town. I wound up with a freezer full of many types of zucchini bread. Then my husband who is 20 years older than me retired and he became the gardener. He planted in a different area, doesn’t weed and at the end of the season we wind up with a handful of overripe green beans.
    We have a lot of wild turkeys running around and from spring till late fall Canadian geese. They look so lovely as they fly away almost in a formation at the end of the season. We also have a few seagulls which is surprising as the ocean is 2.5 hours away.
    Facebook ~ you’re not missing much in my opinion. I deactivated my account. Became tired of endless selfies or blow by blow descriptions of one’s day. The groups are nice though because you can interact with others that share the same interests.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I admire your dedication – you sound a wonderful gardener and I love the descriptions in your comment, worth a post all by itself you know 🙂 I haven’t tried zucchini bread, although I have come across recipes for using it in cake… not really sure about that… lol can just see you throwing surplus veg at random motorists and the looks of surprise! Wonderful comment, thank you very much xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I LOVE to bake but more rustic (if that’s the correct term) items such as breads as opposed to fancy 4 layered cakes. I must have 10 different zucchini bread recipes. I used to take pics as I did each step & post on FB but stopped as no one seemed interested. Too busy with selfies, pictures of fluffy kitties, chubby puppy pics and endless quotes about harmony and happiness as they cheated ob hubby. hahahahahahah

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes…never saw the point in FB really. I think what freaked me out was how “trackable” it makes one…my son uses it only for group chat regarding college work-he’s a student- but my partner was telling me how he was “friends” with someone he knew from primary school that he hadn’t seen for over 30 years and wasn’t particularly friendly with anyway..??…what’s the point?!
        I’m quite interested in your recipes..might be worth putting some on here, I’m sure you’d get a better response x

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I liked FB in the beginning because I joined a few GSD groups. But within a few months I saw all fighting over idiotic things i.e. breed colors etc. I quickly left all but one group and even that one was silly. All the women wanted you to do was vote for their GSD to win place on a calendar etc. I was also disturbed by the amount of medical advice that was being given out AND the people that were blindly following it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah…same conformation as standard GSDs but sort of greyish blue…they remind me of Australian heelers…also now you can get tricolours, forget what you call them, but I don’t think they’re a recognised colour in showing.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes I agree about the tracking. I’ve always told my hubby that FB wants to own it’s users. And those sites that let you log in using your FB ID? I don’t. Feel like FB is Big Brother.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. On my Dell laptop which ran Windows I had heavy duty virus protetion, firewalls ~ you name it. My new Mac Pro I’m still learning as I bought it just before Callie was diagnosed. Sort of baptism by fire. I don’t like the idea that FB etc can track my movements. When you get a chance could you explain the Sasha’s Journey thing to me? Can be tomorrow as I’m going to get offline soon. I REALLY have to figure out blogdom because I can’t find any blogs I follow unless I scroll through them all. Must be a better way.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. They are amazing creatures.. We occasionally have one land on the roof of our house on it’s journey to whichever ‘pond’ it’s decided to fish.. There is something about them that although not ‘pretty’ does feel ‘pretty magnificent’… I wouldn’t like to argue with one either… I can see you now ‘backing up’ into the house… haha!
    I’m also reminded of our 12 foot conifer hedge that surrounds the front of our house – (it doesn’t impact on anybody else light wise or anything) and provides us a great degree of privacy around my ‘brilliance within’ hut…. Until that is that my hubby decided to burn some garden rubbish too close to the hedge and we lost a large section in a matter of minutes as it went up with a gust of wind in the wrong direction, like a tinderbox! – Yep – I WASN’T happy.. neither were the fire service!!! hehe… xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! That’s a very..extreme way of managing hedges…lol…reminds me of when my partner was digging our hedge up and found a wasps nest! He rang me up to ask whether he was allergic, I asked if he’d been stung..he said yes…I said “Are you still breathing?” He said “Yes…”I said ” Well,you’re not allergic then…” lol!! x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right – it was extreme.. the funny thing was that my mum had been with us and had commented on how good the hedge was that very afternoon… I drove her home and as I drove back onto our drive I saw the wind blow the flames across and ‘whoosh’ it was gone! haha.. I still laugh at the image of my hubby in pure ‘panic mode’.. dancing around and arms flailing..x That’s hilarious re: hubby and truly shows your wonderfully caring side Samantha.. probably the same as my hubby would get! x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh dear… a real Harry Hill moment!
        And…I just wanted my partner to realise if he was well enough to ring me…chances were he’s not allergic…and if he was, he shouldn’t be ringing me, he should be ringing for an ambulance! Lol..:) xx


  7. I love the photos! Of course, I love the narrative,too, I always do 🙂 I wish I had a pond with frogs (I really like frogs and toads), but our garden is too small. I often see a heron when I walk the dogs in the morning, he’s being bullied by the seagulls, though-I feel sorry for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you- I’ll tell Alex too 🙂 x
      We were very lucky with the amount of garden we have, this is a corner house on a close. Enough room for a goat really…I like goats…yes there was a time when herons seemed on the decline, but I even saw one on the river right in the middle of town, the other day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We live in the middle of the town, so the garden is small. I’d like to move to Scotland and have more room-but we might need to wait a few years…

        Liked by 1 person

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