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Looks more like beech to me or perhaps hornbeam.
The leaves are strongly asymmetrical at the base so I think it probably is Elm. According to Stace 3 you need leaves from the middle of short shoots in high summer to begin identification.
I would say its definately not beech, and although I'm less sure of hornbeam, I haven't seen the nutlets or catkins of hornbeam - will have to keep an eye out.
I also have this plant (or something very similar) in my garden - part of an old field boundary hedge, and I've always wondered what it was... The one part of the hedge that has escaped years of flail mowing (and dieback) has the little winged fruit of elm in late spring.
I shall have to return later in the year to get better photos. Thanks for your help.
I've been looking at winter twigs recently, for hedgerow surveying, and I've been finding elm particularly tricky to recognise. However, the buds don't look long and pointed enough for either beech or hornbeam. The two I find confusing are elm and hazel, but I haven't had a lot of hazel to practise on (hazel is easy if it has catkins on, but sometimes in hedges they've all been chopped off - but I think the buds are fatter than elm buds).
Where I am (midlands), in hedges it's most likely to be English elm (although all the trees have gone, there is plenty of regrowth in hedgerows, the tops just die off when the trunks get big enough for the beetles to get going). The young leaves don't seem to show the uneven bases as well as mature ones. But I haven't yet seen anything that might be one of the many other confusing elms. I think one of my books said that English elm tends not to fruit much though.
The position of the seed in the elm fruit gives some indication of which species you've got.
I put a picture of Hazel at a similar stage of development here http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/255542 for comparison. As you say, the bud scales look fatter or more globose.
Glad to have started a bit of a debate about elm hedges (and their tricky id) - will post more photos from my local hedges as the leaves open further (and fruit appears).
I picked several twigs of both hazel and elm yesterday, and tried to figure out a specific way of separating the two - and in the end I gave up! Some of the hazel had glandular hairs - but not all of them, and I think some of the elm did too (but then I wasn't so sure which some of them were).
While driving today, I noticed some elm in a hedgerow, and tried to work out how I knew it was elm and not hazel, as I was quite sure it was elm. I think it was because the internodes between the buds were quite short - hazel tends to be gappier I think, but not a very easily quantifiable difference. If the leaves are well-opened it is easy to distinguish them, but when still small they look very similar. Maybe the bud scales tend to be redder in elm? I'll have to go on looking! And that's without trying to distinguish between different elms...
Lat/Lng: 52.7868, 1.4231
OS grid ref: TG309265