Fletching Mill Farm played host again to the Society, getting to grips with a continuation of the Pre- Nationals hedge; which was mainly planted hawthorn, but every so often a monstrous clump of mature hawthorn gave some variety. A shorter leg of hazel hedge was also completed.
As previously impressive piles of brash were produced and the hedge tamed.
It was great to have Paul Mathews attending and a fleeting visit by Dave Sands- both are in the midst of large commercial jobs and their presence always adds a depth of knowledge & experience.
The landowner, Howard, was on hand and provided a enthusiastic welcome to the Society completing the hedgerow management work.
Angmering Park , between Arundel and Worthing hosted the Society for its Annual Competitions in 2018 and 2019 and recently I have been back to see how the hedges have faired since then.
The Society laid around 1 mile of hedge on the estate , which consisted of a mixed double planted hedge, including hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, spindle and field maple. The hedge is next to a made up track which is a bridleway and predominantly has a North/ South aspect , but a leg at the top end runs East to West.
When initially laid the hedge was about 12 feet high and in top condition to lay with stems varying from around 35- 200mm in diameter, with consistent height and growth throughout its length.
The land on which the hedge stand rises from the South to the North , fairly shallowly and some parts of the hedge are accessed up a bank from the track. Being on top of the Downs the soil is free draining with a chalk subsoil.
The amount of re-growth is phenomenal, with new growth coming from all features of the laid hedge - heels and pleachers. The amount of vertical growth is truly amazing and the whole hedge is now properly stockproof.
The farm manager's team , lead by Dominic Gardner, have this winter, trimmed the top of the hedge to around 5 feet and this will aid regrowth further next growing season.
Although most of the hedge was laid South of England style, a short section of hedge was laid Midland style in March 2019- it was difficult to now see much difference between the 2 styles.
David Dunk's brilliant chestnut stakes were used throughout the length of the 2018 and 2019 work and they remain firmly in place.
There is also a shorter section of hedge, nearer the farm buildings, around 100 yards long that was laid prior to 2018 and this too has grown really well with impressive density of re-growth.
This hedge is a great example of what can be achieve by a well organised skilled team of cutters working collaboratively with the landowner. The Society and Angmering Park Estate should be proud of their efforts.
I don’t know about you , but I am feeling well and truly fed up with Lockdown , Tiers, restrictions and lack of social interaction. Normally I would not consider myself to be a particularly social or gregarious person, happy with my own company ….………to a point.
I have been working from home since mid March and not really ventured far from home since , which from a covid perspective is great , but I am starting to become stir crazy.
It would be easy to wallow in a pit of self pity – something I really try not to do.
Hedge laying is the perfect antidote to the lamentous situation we find ourselves in :-
So banish those Lockdown Blues !
Matthew Beard 29.12.20
Saturday 5th December, location Chelwood Gate for hedgelaying day 3. Having arrived and parked up, the day's first sporting challenge was a gentle yomp to the hedge line which was around 400 metres away. Some cutters chose a minimalistic approach to the amount of tools and equipment carried, whilst others adopted more of a pack horse scenario including the use of wheelbarrows and multiple trips. All, however, were keeping a weather eye open as the initial forecast was looking ominous.
Once on site, a quick glance confirmed that we were faced with a hedge of two halves. The top half was well endowed with our old friend Rubus fruticosus (Bramble) and a fair amount of blackthorn sucker growth. Consequently, it was no surprise that most of the early-bird cutters had gravitated to the bottom half of the hedgerow which was mainly very dense hazel but devoid of bramble.
Nonetheless, everyone got stuck in and progress was soon being made. Marcus Broome and Graham West, on adjacent cants to each other, were working on the blackthorn/bramble section of the hedge. Having cut back about a metre and a half of blackthorn sucker growth they finally got to the hedge proper. However, beyond the hedge was a thicket of bramble which was growing over and through the hedge and also needed removing. Upon finally clearing all the excess overgrowth from his cant, Marcus declared that he must surely hold the record for the amount of preliminary work required on a hedge, to which Graham replied that it was a record that he was welcome to keep!
Elsewhere, chairman Phil Hart unleashed his chainsaw and made very short work of the overgrowth on at least two cants of hedge. He was, however, rewarded with the usual banter about the amount of kit he had plus the noise level accompanying his saw.
In the afternoon there was the briefest shower of rain despite Chris Burchell-Collins' best attempt at a rain dance, and the predicted persistent rain didn't arrive until the majority of cutters had left. We were particularly lucky in this regard as in the West of the County heavy hail showers had been falling throughout the day.
At close of play the 'hedge of two halves' looked very respectable indeed and everyone had contributed well. Our hosts were very impressed by our efforts and at the end of the day you can't ask for more than that. It was great to see a really good turn out from the Society with a good mix of experienced and novice cutters and as always, the good-natured banter was flowing aplenty.
Huge thanks once again to Phil Hart, David Droscher and Frank Wright for organising the day and ensuring that the stakes and binders were where they needed to be, and a very big thank you to our hosts for looking after us so well.
Author :- Graham West
We were treated to a wonderful day's weather , delightful Sussex countryside.
This was just as well , as this was another Fletching beast, aka as Frank puts it, an interesting hedge , consisting of overstood hazel, over mature brittle hawthorn, some holly and a bit of large field maple, which ensured a good workout.
The large hazel hedge was laid to produce another massive amount of brash. It was particularly pleasing to see Tim and Roger back, who were able to assist less experienced cutters.Alan Ashby and his chainsaw provided invaluable assistance and guidance .
Last year trainees of Tim, Oliver and Iain got stuck in and seemed unfazed by the beast in front of them.
Thankfully Chairman took on the big stuff down the right flank and gave his Husqvarna chainsaw a good work out.
This event was able to take place during Lockdown 2 after receiving information from the Voluntary Conservation Trust and taking a close look at the latest Lockdown legislation.
Major thanks to Frank and Phil, who found the hedge , liaised with the landowner, arranged the stakes and binders, set out the cants , got the show van into position and generally made sure it all happened, as well as tackled particularly hard cants.
Despite the National Hedge Laying competition being cancelled this year , the Society followed through with the pre- Nationals practice day at Fletching on 17 October.
A tough hedge consisting of tall hawthorn and field maple was chosen , being a continuation of of the Society's 2020 competition hedge.
A right tangled mess was faced by cutters , who undertook the task with usual fortitude and imagination and proceeded to produce a pile of brash almost never seen before- MASSIVE.
The end result was another top quality laid hedge , which the Society and cutters should be proud of .
Covid precautions were well observed and are becoming habit
Saturday 10th October saw our first hedge laying meet of the year, albeit with some logistical changes due the current Covid situation. With strict enforcement of social distancing measures,Participants gathered at Tickerage Castle, Framfield on a bright and clear morning with hazy sunshine. 'Early birds' Phil Hart and Frank Wright noted that there was frost on the ground at 07:00 hrs, significant as it was the first frost of the season.
The venue is in a stunning location and lies adjacent to the Wealdway, a long-distance footpath running for 83 miles between Gravesend in Kent and Eastbourne in Sussex. The main hedge to be laid was along the roadside of the property and consisted mainly of hazel as well as hawthorn and one or two other species. There was a second hedge of lesser quality situated across a paddock from the main hedge that was also to be laid. Three willing volunteers were subsequently allocated this task.
By late morning, steady progress was being made with many sections almost down. Before we knew it, lunchtime was upon us, a welcome break and time to refuel.
After lunch it was back to the cants to finish off. Some of the cutters who had completed their cant helped with other tasks where needed, and before too long the work was complete. Even the lesser hedge was looking reasonable, despite it being initially full of gaps, and also flailed off by the neighbouring farmer some days previous.
All in all, it was a superb day out in beautiful countryside, with very pleasant company and in the main good weather. Our hosts very welcoming and they still have more hedges for us to lay in due course so hopefully we will be back in the future. Best of all, it was great to catch up with everyone again in person after what has been a very difficult year for most.
Author- Graham West
Editors- Phil Hart and Chris Burchell Collins
ps - Major thanks to the Gearing family who looked after us splendidly.
Our good friends in Holland have been busy Laying hedges and making hurdles.
Because of Covid-19 they have to work in groups of maximum 4 people
Report from Martijn Schippers
I was out with the dog earlier today and spotted some old hedgelaying.
It was a very thin hedge and at first I hardly noticed that someone had a stab at hedgelaying.
Yes it was still alive
Points for anyone who can spot any errors or suggest any possible improvements.
Our wonderful chairman has collected stakes and binders for the first few events.
The material looks good, so we should be able to kick off the season with some good straight hedge lines
With the boots being nice & dry it’s time to clean off any dried on mud with a wire brush, I use an old BBQ cleaning brush. Then it’s time to treat the boots with dubbin to feed the leather to stop it cracking & provide a degree of waterproofing for the wet winter months on the hedge line. I also treated my boots to a new set of laces.
Phil Hart (The guy with the sparkly boots)
Extract from an article in CPRE. www.cpre.org.uk
Originally published in Countryside Voices, the membership magazine of CPRE, the countryside charity.
Their campaigner Ellie also wrote up an account of the day
As part of our mission to enhance the countryside, CPRE is supporting a number of pilot community
projects that are helping people improve their local green spaces. One of these is Hogacre Common
Ecopark, a rural oasis less than a mile from central Oxford, in the city’s Green Belt.
In 2010 the 14-acre patch of land, a former sports ground, was leased from Corpus Christi College to
be used for a number of low-carbon community projects, including a new woodland, allotments, an
orchard and a forest school. The revitalised site has been transformed into an invaluable community
resource, and CPRE Oxfordshire is assisting with its ongoing transformation by providing funds for
training courses, access improvements, information boards and the planting of a forest garden.
Their campaigners are delighted to be involved in this working demonstration of the potential of
Green Belt land for health, habitats and education. The first training event to take place thanks to
CPRE’s support was a hedgelaying course led by professional Clive Leeke. Regular members of the
Hogacre Common friends group, along with other interested locals and enthusiasts from further
afield, learned the secrets of the centuries old art. They then got to try their hand at taming Hogacre
Common’s own overgrown enclosure hedge – a worthy day’s work on a fantastic community space.
Find out more about CPRE Oxfordshire’s latest campaigns and events at cpreoxon.org.uk
Thanks to Andrew Cook for spotting this
Videos from the competition are now live here
Pictures from Saturdays event are now on-line
If you have any more please add them!
Thanks to all who attended our delayed competition
Everyone arrived in good time on a very wet, but thankfully not windy morning.
The hedges fell into two categories, very light for the novices and Super veteran class, and "interesting" for the rest.
By interesting I really mean horrible. it was very gappy, and had been flailed at about 3 foot leaving a huge gnarly knot with a fair number of tall growths on top. This meant a lot of hard pruning to reduce the weight. The vast bulk of the competitors opted for chainsaws from the start, Frank started with hand tools but quickly switched. David Dunk however stuck with hand tools, as of course did the novices.
Such a tough hedge meant almost everyone was pushed for time, however all sections were down by the finish horn, although one was without binders.
Our novices produced some really good work this year.
Congratulations to all the winners
Massive thanks to the judges and stewards
Pictures to follow
Bob and Des judged last years regrowth, and as well as overall 1st 2nd 3rd they marked each class, so for fun here are the details
1st Dave Truran
2nd John French
3rd Clive Gilligan
1st Natasha Stonestreet
2nd Gwyn Alford
3rd Graham West
1st Mike Mason
2nd Matthew Beard
3rd Russell Woodham
1st Nigel Adams
2nd Tony Gallow
3rd Gary Moore
Sadly I managed to mess up the names/cants for the new Super Vet class, this has now been corrected.
Here is the detail of the points trophy
This year we agreed to select the 3 best scores, as this does not penalise people who judge at events during the season.
It is with huge disappointment that we have had to postpone the annual competition because of a forecast of very high winds which means it will be unsafe to continue.
We are shifting it to Saturday 14th March, which was our annual "fun day" so
I have also been informed that the Isle of Wight Hedgelaying competition is going ahead at Coombe Farm, Brighstone Saturday 29th February 2020 from 10am until 4pm
Limited entries so be fast, entry form:
The first competition for our society is the President Vs. Chairman competition. We split into 2 teams, with names (written on Beer mats) pulled at random from the bag.
Phil Hart (Chairman) won the toss and picked the lower section of hedge, leaving Alan Ashby (Acting President for the day) the top section. The lower section was double planted, while the top section was mainly single planted, but with typically slightly larger stems. We also agreed to do continuous binding on our respective sections, so the faster cutters were given the higher sections. The stems were generally good, with the odd dead plant, and some brittle bits here and there.
The sections were not marked out, so it was up to the individual cutters to select what they felt comfortable with, and to work individually or in pairs.
A slight complexity was the old fence behind the hedge was staying in place for the time being, so laying off was tricky.
Everyone made a good start, and we appeared to be well ahead of schedule by the time Bob and Des arrived with the stakes and binders. It was good to see Cilla Tunks and family who came to see how were getting on.
Phil's team were progressing slightly faster, and were first to begin binding, with Alan's team a little behind in places.
The binders being packed in 20s were not ideal for short 8 yard sections as some people did not have any, at the end of Phil's section I went into a minor panic and made 3 of us tweak the spacing a little (widening it, so using less binders), it probably didn't make a lot of difference to be honest.
By the finish time Phil's team had finished and Alan's team were about half way through the bindings.
Anyway our judge for the day (Mike Parrott) declared Phil's team as the winners, and the Chairman was presented with the Wood plate.
Photo's as always