This evening as the frost drew in again, there was a crashing and snapping in the hedge on the west of the garden. It was one of the bullocks in the next door field pushing through the hazel and thorn to browse on our green holly leaves.
Holly used to be an important fodder crop and there are still a few remaining wood pastures known as 'hollins' dotted about the British Isles, mainly in the north, though the famous holly tops on Holmestone Beach near the Kent/Sussex border may be a hollin.
George Peterken (1981) in his Woodland Conservation and Management says "Holly was once cultivated as a source of winter feed for livestock". He says further "Since wood pasture was fundamentlally a system for reconciling the existence of trees and grazing animals on the same ground, it is legitimate to regard hedges and hedgerow trees and surrounding pasture fields as a form of wood pasture."
As wood pasture is a UK HAP Priority Habitat I shall never look at our front hedge in the same way again.