Tales from the Wood

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The Art of Hedgelaying

Way back in history, when I lived on a farm in Staffordshire, hedgelaying was part-and-parcel of everyday field maintenance. It ensured that field boundaries were stockproof and the hedges dense and secure, It gave the hedgerow-birds good tight cover for nesting and provided seasonal employment for the local 'Hedgers and Ditchers'.

I was lucky enough to be taught the art by two of Staffordhire's best; Bill Windley and Geoff Key (1985 British Champion) but despite the illustrious tuition, I was never more than a jobbing, rather than a hero hedgelayer and never did particularly well in local competitions.

But, I really loved it; there's nothing better on a freezing winter's day than a few hours grubbing around in a hedge bottom - it keeps you warm as toast and you can see a real transformation, as the neatly sloping pleachers follows your billhook and axe.

Now living in Norfolk, I've found much less evidence of hedgelaying: beets and potatoes have taken over from sheep and bullocks. However, staring me in the face, for too long now, there is a good 150 yard stretch of overgrown hedge bordering the wood, and it's ripe for laying.

The principles of hedgelaying are fairly simple, you thin the individual hedgerow trees, cut through each stem with a slicing cut, leaving just enough bark and cambium to enable the sap to rise, and then, carefully bend the stem (now a called a pleacher) down into the previously layed section.

Iv'e made a questionable start, but by the end, I guess I'll be back to average!



Hedge Laying 1

Hedge Laying 2

Hedge Laying 3

Hedge Laying 4