Beautiful Boundaries: In Praise of the Humble Hedge
And here are some snaps from the magazine itself
Gary's fame has spread over the Atlantic, and he features in Farm Collector magazine
Beautiful Boundaries: In Praise of the Humble Hedge
And here are some snaps from the magazine itself
Members of the Society suffered some horrible injuries today, but fortunately it was because we were undergoing First Aid Training with https://www.forestknights.co.uk/
David Droscher spotted this on the A275 just south of south Chailey.
He wonders if it's 'JCB style'
Have you seen any horrors?
A great season of hedgelaying draws to a close, so a huge thank you to everyone who helped make it a success. In the background the committee are sorting and organising to keep everything on track, and we welcome Graham West to the team.
Special thanks of course go to Frank for visiting the hedges throughout the year. Thank you to those members who turned out to help Tim with the coppicing, the stakes and binders don't grow on trees you know! Bob's transport service were once again called on for transporting material to site. Chris and Frank get up very early to putting out the signs in the morning, and mark out the hedge. Our trainers for helping the novice cutters understand the process, and guiding them. Our annual competition was again a great event, and takes a huge effort from a lot of people. Thanks to Ian for creating our newsletter, which is going from strength to strength, and for those who send reports and pictures. We are seeing a lot more branded clothing, thanks to Mike for leading on this, and thank you for buying it and supporting the society by flying the flag!
Membership is now due
If you have paid recently that's great, you will have received an email from me to confirm. If you don't have an email then you probably have not paid.
Payment is easy - click here
The cutting season is now over, but we all like to talk about hedgelaying so why not help out at one of the summer shows and attract more members.
Plumpton College Open Day – May 11th 2019
Heathfield Show – May 25th 2019
South of England Show – June 6th , 7th, 8th 2019
Connect with the Countryside – July 11th 2019
Miles of hedge
This season we laid 1280 metres/1394 yards of hedge, that's the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, or closer to home the approximate length of the wall at Conwy Castle in Wales
A fantastic amount of £2108 has been raised by the Society for Chailey Heritage Foundation https://www.chf.org.uk in 2019, through:-
Advanced tool sharpening
Our resident racing axe man Dave Sands has offered to run some workshops over the summer to help take your tool sharpening to the next level . If you have done the introduction to sharpening with the society and now want to turbo charge your tools this is the one for you.
If you are interested please shout, and say if you prefer an evening or weekend slot. sessions will be about 3hrs and numbers will be limited.
Watch Dave in action in the video below
Dates for next season
These have now been finalised and are available on the website (see Calendar or download the membership renewal form)
Want to know what the hedges look like? Have a look at Franks hedge report
Several people in SEHLS will know the small Dutch group that compete in our February competition led by Lex Roeleveld and Martijn Schippers. Some may also know that for several years a return visit is made to a hedglaying event in Holland, the Maasheggenvlechten. This year’s intrepid adventurers were John French, Roger Taylor and Frank Wright. We were invited over to give some instruction in South of England style hedgelaying on the Saturday, up near Utrecht, and then travel down to Boxmeer, near the German border, for the event on Sunday; we were laying a demonstration hedge with the locals competing in the local style of hedge-weaving or hedge-braiding.
The Saturday session was pretty standard on a nice, double row thorn hedge that has evidently been used as a training hedge several times in the recent past. What was particularly interesting, though, was a tool that Martijn’s son Luke was using for taking the heels off – a tool that was designed for cutting willow osiers and tree pruning. Nice and sharp and being wielded to great effect by Luke, who we hope will be entering our novice competition next year.
There were six trainees and we laid three cants, joining onto a length that had been laid in the local style. The weather was OK for most of the day but, naturally, turned wet towards the end.
The Maasheggen in Holland received approval in 2018 as a UNESCO biosphere reserve – an area in which humans and nature coexist. It claims to represent the oldest cultivated landscape in the Netherlands and is a mosaic of hedgerows, meadows and ponds on the bank of the river Maas. Not unlike some areas of England … but flat. Within this area there are 275 kilometres of hedge.
Every year they hold a “hedge-braiding” competition, this was the fourteenth. Usually they expect to get 5,000 or more visitors to the event. No, that’s not a misprint, 5,000. However as we were in the teeth of a gale with occasional driving rain numbers were greatly reduced and there were only about 1,000. At most of our competitions in the UK you could knock two zeroes off those numbers and still have spare fingers. Many of the spectators come by bicycle either because they are local or they park remotely and cycle in. Many of the competitors also turned up on bikes with polesaws, long-handled pruners and long hooking sticks strapped to their crossbars and sticking out about 3 feet each end. Bicycles are a really big deal in Holland.
Their hedging style is possibly unique in that it is designed to allow the free flow of water to and fro through the hedge and (not good news for coppice workers) uses no stakes or binders at all. The “weavers” use only live stakes and lay the rest of the hedge in 3 layers, one from ground level as in the British styles, a middle level and then a top level that is intertwined to form the top of the hedge. This style is centuries old, as are most of the hedging styles around Europe. It tends to look rather untidy to many British eyes and the high pleaching is a definite no-no on this side of the North Sea. However, it is only meant to be effective against cattle and the live stakes mean that the whole thing is actually very robust even though it doesn’t look very substantial. A blackbird should be able to fly through it apparently. The argument against the more robust style of British hedging is that the river floods but when it recedes it brings with it all the detritus, natural and man-made, and whereas the Maasheggen style allows all this water and debris to pass through the substantial gaps without any significant problem the fuller, denser style of British hedges allegedly causes all the accumulated rubbish to build up against the hedge, creating a dam which eventually gives way under the accumulated weight of water. This argument is not universally accepted though and there are, I understand, something like 80 kilometres of South of England style hedge.
The British hedge usually attracts quite a lot of interest and apparently gets a high approval rating from the viewing public.
Some brave souls were attempting to defy the weather and generate a bit of enthusiasm and party atmosphere with a pantomime horse and lots of bubbles. I fear they were not very successful.
The Dutch were extremely hospitable and the event was well organised; there were 37 cants I think. The small group of them who come over every February to enter our South of England hedgelaying competition enable a bit of cultural cross-pollination. Some of them were using an unusual type of billhook that looks very like a butcher’s cleaver and some of them appear to do a great deal of the pleaching using a saw rather than an axe or billhook. Most of them lay in teams compared to the British competitions, which are nearly all individual contests. There were no chainsaws used, except by us. We acknowledged the local sensitivities by using only a battery saw.
General impressions of Holland: it’s very neat and tidy with tiny little roads in the towns and villages. There is a lot of infrastructure for bikes – cycle lanes and paths, dedicated crossings and lots of traffic calming in town to keep speeds down. Nearly every house with a patch of garden has espaliered trees either up against the house wall or on the boundary. There are a huge number of willow trees lining roads, fields and ditches, which they keep closely pollarded (That was the job of one of our hosts, a willow-pollarder.)
The bicycle is king.
Roger Taylor (pictures) and Frank Wright (words)
The Hedgelaying season finishes the end of March, although with the amount of leaves this might need revising back a few weeks in future?
Our last event of the year was our "Try something different day" and we decided to give the popular "Midland" style a go. We have a few cutters in the society who lay this style, so we herded them up for some training.
For those not familiar with Midland style its very "showy" with all the pleachers on view, and all the fluffy stuff on the "back" If you search the internet for a picture of hedgelaying you will probably see midland style.
The build of the hedge is different to SoE, in that we are looking for a wall of wood, with stems sitting neatly onto of each other, and nothing sticking out front. For us SoE people it seems very odd and brutal, but it regrows well!
All the attendees were regular cutters so the pleaching was not an issue, but laying off and the build did keep our experts busy helping us get the build started, poor Alan Ashby ended up building almost 1/2 the final hedge :-)
The stakes are put in as you go, which keeps the line straight. Finally it was binder time, which to everyone's amusement Peter Tunks completely forgot how to do it, Dave Sands has a special binder style which he seemed to invent on the day which was a cross between SoE and Midland. Looked good, and had very little waste. Once again Alan demonstrated how to do this for every cant , but once started we were mostly able to finish this on our own.
A great day out
Pictures of course
With the threat of rain, and a competition in Devon we were down to 26 attendees for this years charity day. I seem to remember horizontal sleet at last years charity day.... I guess it helps motivate people to dig deep
I brought along loads of cake from a party the previous night, so we had a good solid start to the day, which was overcast, but not as bad as it could have been. Our host for the day arranged a portaloo, unheard of luxury.
Anyway we all (mostly) arrived on time and have a look at what was in store this year (Our charity day hedges tend to be on the 'interesting' side). I was a mixed bag, gappy in places, BIG in places. Oh and some bits had been laid before. I managed to blag quite a nice patch of bramble, which is always a bonus.
So the day started with the buzz of chainsaws, and this continued most of the day, while people dealt with some pretty large stuff
I happened to be working on the road side next to Dave Sands who was showing Bernard Warwick the ropes. within what seemed like minutes Dave had finished half his hedge, including a massive pleach, and I was still clearing out and pondering where and how to start.
One of my first plants was a massive Hazel stool, so most of this went on the brash pile. My hedge went down pretty well, it was however a little gappy in places due to a complete lack of material (I did ponder pleaching the Bramble at one point).
Tucked away on the side of the field half the guys were busy standing in a ditch, I think Matthew spent most of the day knee deep in 'water'.
By 11:00 Dave and Bernard were pretty much finished, and I had completed my pleaching, so we were ahead of the game. Most people were well underway, but a few were struggling with either volume of material or massive trees.
Phil Hart had pruned out a massive bit of olive ash (a nice dark streak in the centre of a white outer), never wanting to miss a trick I got him to saw it into manageable chunks which I tucked away in my car boot, with a plan to adze out a few bowls.
Some of the neighbours were a little concerned by our activities (I think they were expecting a little light pruning), so I took them on a tour of the hedge and explained all the processed involved and showed them detail. I don't think I managed to collect any new members, but they did understand what we were up to.
All to soon it was lunch time, and the landowner had fired up the BBQ, so it was sausages and soup all round, washed down with yet more cake and a welcome break from standing in water, or chainsaw art.
Dave was showing people his racing axes, and of course shaving his arm to demonstrate how sharp they really are.
The finished hedge was a massive improvement on what we started with, and the landowner seemed very happy
Our team of plucky hedgelayers had so much fun I collected £420 from them on the day with more to come.
Pictures as always
Our 35th annual competition was again at Angmering park, a massive estate north of Worthing. After turning on the main road its still a few miles to drive to the hedge. And set in the middle of the south downs national park, what better setting could you want?
The setup team did a fantastic job, the marking out was looking good.
Everyone arrived (almost) on time. Our competitors were mainly locals but we also had visitors from Yorkshire, Dorset, and Holland. We were greeted with clear sunny skys, which was a welcome break from the winter rain.
Phil briefed the cutters, and reminded everyone of the new hand tools rules
Our stewards managed the theatre of the cant draw, then all to soon the start horn blasted out
The hedge was pretty consistent, pretty tall, and generally not to big.
Once the cutters started many had an eye on the hand tools prize money, and set about removing heals with swinging tools. It has to be said the results were variable. The canny veterans were on the whole wise to this, and most set off with chainsaws from the get go.
Our judges and stewards spent the day checking everything, and passing occasional timely comments, much to the approval of anyone on the receiving end.
All to soon we had an hour to go, and a little panic set in on many cants. Fortunately by the final horn everyone had finished, with maybe a little last minute tweaking missed.
By the end of the day it was actually hot, and many had caught the sun.
We drove to the pub for a superb lunch, and prize giving. Well done to all the winners.
Massive thanks to the Stewards, Judges, the other admin people, and the setup and cooppicing crews.
Photo’s will be loaded overnight, check back over the following days
There are a few pictures from Matthew from the setup crew
Below the individual scores. I will post the full list of winners Monday, along with the detail from the points trophy
Thanks for everyone who renewed their membership, I'll sort that out Monday and email everyone to confirm payment received.
The on-site team have measured out the sections, bundles of stakes and binders have been issued to each section. The Hedge is looking good, its grown since last year!
Hopefully the sun will burn off the fog once we get started....
Pictures of course
Anyone planning to watch the competition here is a map
The cutting starts at 08:30, and will last 5hrs.
See you there!
The coppice team were busy today at Saint Hill, nice looking binders for the competition.
860 cut by 7 members (the usual reliable few, TS FW DD MB MM and new member Andy), plus 200 I have in stock. This will see us through for the Charity / Fun day and Midland Day.
Just had an email from David Dunk, the stakes are ready for collection.
One of our favourite locations (if ropey hedges) is at Wittersham, Ed, Gemma and family were on telly the other day, and if you watch very carefully you can see a hedge we worked on (in the background)
It is not often in life that everything you hoped for comes to fruition, but this year’s President v Chairman competition came close:-
It was great to see Roger back cutting, he produced a really quality section of hedge.
This event acts as reminder on how lucky the Society is to have the President and Chairman we have ; thank you Peter and Phil.
While the bulk of the SEHLS team were at Folkington (see other report), two intrepid cutters braved the weather and competed at the Wimpole competition.
A very early start for David Dunk saw him dodging cars abandoned in the snow to meet Gary Moore for the long trip to Cambridgeshire.
The results are in
3rd Alex Howden
2nd Gary Moore
1st Graham Teece
South Of England Class
3rd Jacob Radford
2nd Tim Radford
1st David Dunk
Well done Gary, and super well done to David for beating Tim Radford (Current national champion) on his home turf. The picture below is the winning stake line.
There is still time to sharpen your billhook and enter our annual competition.
We have plenty of hedge (the land owner measures it in miles), and it's pretty straightforward.
If you are a novice and are not sure ring Phil H, Phil P, or Frank W and we'll talk to you about what is involved etc.
Entries close 3rd Feb 2019, and NO LATE ENTRIES will be accepted
What an amazing site Frank found for us, and with chilly dry sunny weather, perfect.
This was the improvers' day (where our trainees get the chance to showcase their skills). We had 9 enter, and the all cut individually (which might have been a bit of a surprise to some), a couple of people from previous years also entered.
The other cutters worked half alone, and the rest in 2's (or more), which was amusing as the real novice cutters were doing more work than many of the experts, such is life.
Most sections were pretty reasonable, but there were patches of rose which irritated everyone as it was a pig to deal with in places. two sections has a LOT Of bramble, and as is now traditional David Dunk had one of them.
The day progressed nicely and we had a few visitors, including the landowner. I was paired with Michael Bentley and we had almost finished our pleaching while David was still pulling rubbish from his section. Mind you by the time it came to laying there was so little left he made fast work out of it, even root laying most of the rose (we did wonder at one point if he was trying to do the entire hedge without a single pleach, be he managed a couple later on)
I picked up a huge amount of tips on hedge building from Michael, which I hope to put into practice.
All to soon it was lunch which was provided by the landowner and family, most of the experienced cutters were on stake and binders, so restarting for them was not an issue, but the novices were still mid hedge.
Everyone finished pretty much at the final (virtual) bell, and there was some pretty good hedge laying from everyone.
There can of course be only one winner for the improvers' trophy and our judges selected Andy Delves
Pictures as always
Flickr has decided to charge for storing pictures, so I have moved everything to google, here is a list of our events, and a link. I have not amended all the old blog entry links!
Competition Colbrans Feb 2014 https://photos.app.goo.gl/FdmvLKMRwZBnSAgC8
Crowbrough TD3 Dec 2015 https://photos.app.goo.gl/eKUff9jooXHvuWnn6
NHLS Display Aug 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/gLjbFAoab1W1HutW9
Crowborough Dec 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/wWgkjeeRYFUynZT29
Tool Sharpening Dec 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/WTSubnAZLeDZ7xM99
Byfleet Nov 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/Fprzg8GrPy6giHH1A
Coppicing Benenden Sept 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/7igaEfHJ5pphDryg9
Laughton Competition Sept 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/jLSRey8aBDYkDUNW8
Chainsaw training Apr 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/y5RZiKnRGaUafWVm6
Annual Competition Scotney Feb 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/c6JWS8JHHqQCtDeS7
Improvers day Scotney Jan 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/b46fTN8yirBJrkAs5
PvC Wittersham Jan 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/WkyYNS5gJ1KqwxFL6
Annual Competition Magham Down 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/7N5K8GhLZZnTK19r9
Fun day Wittersham Mar 2016 https://photos.app.goo.gl/KcmTVwQ5TRaPhjHB6
Scotney TD1 Oct 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/NfFLozRut2T9yQcSA
HPP Coppice Sep 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/pZpPTG7Dh7AbADGm9
Funday Fletching Mar 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/5gqJAANSrEUmjWi57
PvC Magham Down Jan 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/mvkwUKaXhbtxvUpf7
Improver's day Forest Green Jan 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/UrCU7DKdjkpLTCTr5
Laughton Sept 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/8CR1VaFzHHjYCxoK8
HPP Comp Oct 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/zazK2fraJXzQKM7r9
Sandringham Estate Dec 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/5iPCvF4546XX2yoG7
Cissbury Ring, Findon Dec 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/s6kmc8Cvo38GmBav7
Coppicing Turners hill Dec 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/zRAGCdEQCs9SefrA7
Sissinghurst Castle Garden Nov 2017 https://photos.app.goo.gl/HFMF98m5qwDc4ugB6
Dallington (TD2) 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/P8rMxBNZf1TCe5PP8
Fletching PvC competition Feb 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/ebXSB9K9PNix5jzj8
Annual Competition Angmring Park Feb 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/471v1z3DRf1yGm8cA
Two go mad in Devon Feb 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/bBVpufvjXJrWJ3QZ7
HPP Coppice day Sept 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/do3ZoZSscYo72MVW8
Bolney TD1 Oct 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/mXgya3fpLVJzb5zJ6
NHLS: National Comp Cambridge 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/f33i8WeWYuHubTBs9
Magham down TD3 https://photos.app.goo.gl/xRfKX5UPQGEYeaUa8
Dallington (TD2) 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/P8rMxBNZf1TCe5PP8
Great All England Horse Ploughing Match Oct 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/aoUpQV5QBk7d7hFR9
Midland day at Magham Down Mar 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/aZVsN66MUjw8E3vC7
Improvers day, Magham down Jan 2018 https://photos.app.goo.gl/uCvVXtPbz8k4g7Z89