Newly laid hedge, Ravenscar

An opportunity to help with hedge laying with the National Trust at their Ravenscar property.

A hedge is laid or plashed to prevent it becoming thin and open at its base allowing livestock to force their way through. Every area in Britain has its own particular style suited to its resources and environment. So we have Devon, South of England and the Midland Bullock styles for instance. And of course we have own own Yorkshire style, thing and low, laid close to the ground. Other styles like the Midland Bullock are topped with flexible hazel rods or ethers weaved between the upright stakes. It makes a stronger, and some say neater, hedge capable of withstanding large cattle. As coppicing long straight rods of hazel is not easy in windswept Yorkshire and with sheep being more widespread, weavers are not used in the Yorkshire style.

Hedges have probably been around since man first settled down and started cultivating the land although archaeological evidence is difficult to find. Traces of what is believed to be a hedge has been buried beneath Roman fort near Glasgow. Hedges are mentioned in several Roman texts and Julius Caesar considered a plashed hedge in Belgium to be a major obstacle. In Medieval times most villages and would have had hedges around paddocks and closes but it was towards the end of the 18th Century that the planting of new hedges reached its peak with the Enclosure Acts.

The hedgelayer’s traditional tool was a billhook, which seems to me to be lethal piece of kit, so I played safe with a bow saw and secateurs. But with the sight of billhooks I can’t get out of my mind The Two Ronnies classic sketch, Four Candles.



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