We had an excellent turnout on Sunday and including the stakes and binders cut by Chris and Frank on Saturday, the totals were 470 stakes and 280 binders
That you all very much.
We have now cleared the first part of the wood which MSDC wanted done first and have now reached the "less overstood" Hazel, to continue after Christmas.
Bob has taken 360 stakes and 160 binders down to Streat this morning, so with those plus the 200 binders Dave took down last week, everything is on site and ready for Saturday.
Here A behind the scenes view of the Patron of the National Hedgelaying society Prince Charles Dutchy of Cornwall estate
Some superb pictures from Friday (setup), and during the event:
ALL credits to Tim Russ Photography
All credit to Tim Russ Photography
Other With a forecast of RAIN we knew all to well what to expect.
So on a slightly damp Saturday we gathered in a field for the 41st annual hedgelaying competition.
We kicked off at about 9 o'clock which was pretty much as the real rain started.
The hedge was actually pretty good, it cut well and didn't have brittle stems or much dead, so the only thing to worry about was the wind and a bit of rain.
There were a lot of tall a bushy stems, which were something of a challenge to get into place without breaking with the wind blowing pretty fearlessly all day, even one of the loo's blew over (I don't know if anyone was inside, probably best not to look?).
We all got on well, and within in the 5hrs most people had got their sections sorted and looking good.
Because of the weather most people didn't do much last minute "fettling", and our usual post event wander about to guess who was in-line for a prize just didn't happen.
Massive thanks to Phil Hart of standing in as judge and helping John Savings. Phil has a very good eye for the detail, so we were all under the spotlight. Both our judges were out in the rain while we managed to eat our food in the (semi) dry. Big respect.
Very well done to the winners
4th Mike Mason
3rd Graham West
2nd Phill Piddell
1st Johnny Adams
4th Stephen Mockford
3rd Nigel Adams
2nd Mike Bentley
1st David Dunk
3rd Clive Gilligan
2nd Frank Wright
1st Lex Roeleveld
Gary Moore 2nd
Russell Woodham 1st
Extra thanks to the entire organising committee.
Pictures - please add more if you have them!
After weeks of rain the weather gods smiled on us on Saturday and we were greeted to fair day on the outskirts of Pulborough at the RSPB bird sanctuary. A glorious setting overlooking the South Downs and River Arun made the world seem right.
Frank had managed to find us a challenging hedge which gave us all a good work out, especially for those entering the National Championships at Pewsey on 26 October.
An informal draw took place around 8.30am and the hooter sounded bang on 9.00am
As with a lot of hedges we undertake this had been allowed to grow wild but patchy in places, but most cutters were gainfully employed for a good 5 hrs. As ever while everyone struggled , Gary and the Dunkmeister appeared to be casually undertaking a Saturday morning job for a valued customer. Phil gave himself the handicap of starting 1.5 hrs after everyone , after acting as Sherpa for tools and equipment as the hedge was a fair way from the car park.
I shared a cant with Tim and just as well when we discovered brambles and rose growing upto 20ft- we made good use of a pole saw and set of ladders. It took us 3 hours to clear the cant of the entangled mass. My first pleacher with my new chainsaw was a decent sized ash, which had hidden ash dieback and snapped off- good start.
The experienced group of cutters transformed the unruly mass to something that resembled a hedge and all had a really good work out for the Nationals; I could hardly walk on Sunday.
While this was going on Chris acted as chief steward and fielded a number of enquiries from visitors to the site.
As ever thanks must go to a number of people who enabled this event to happen:-
· Frank and Chris for finding the hedge
· Dave T and Dave D for providing the stakes and binders
· Bob Hunt and Des Whittington for transport the binders
· Phil H- for organising the draw and on the day transport manager
· Chris – for being steward
· All the cutters for giving up their Saturday and tackling a demanding hedge
The Society is well represented in a number of classes at Pewsey and would appreciate support- try to go along – it is a great event.
Our training season kicked off on a damp October morning in Isfield. This is the same site we held the Improvers day competition in January. Last years hedge was looking good, plenty of re-growth from all sections.
We split into two groups today, some of the more experienced layers finished off the last of the improvers hedge, while the trainees were on the other side of the field on a rather nice double planted section.
Everyone turned up on time, and after the initial briefing we divided our trainees up into pairs allocated them a trainer and set off.
Our new society tools (Donated by Alan Ashby, and refurbished by "theludite" (http://www.theluddite.com/) were divvied up amongst the senior members for use by their trainees. The homework task of course was to sharpen and make tool covers, no pressure there then.
We seem to have picked up a pretty good set of students this year as they all seemed to be getting on very well, and following the instructions issued. We were fortunate to have Alan Ashby acting as a sort of mobile expert offering wise words, and the odd bit of billhook work. Our other mobile expert was of course our esteemed chairman Phil Hart who also made a point of demonstrating heal removal with an axe/billhook so the trainees could see what they were aiming for.
Most of the students had finished pleaching by lunch time, so we adjourned to a nice cozy barn for some very fine soup, and sossies in rolls, washed down with cake and chockie bikkies.
After lunch we finished off the stakes and binders.
It has to be said that some of the stake lines were very good, so for a first attempt we should be expecting some pretty impressive results at the Improvers day next year. Hopefully a few will stick with the society and try their hands at the competitions.
Pictures as always:
The final ploughing match of our season saw us at Hirstpierpoint. A quick look at the hedge suggested "gnarly" a more detailed look confirmed that we might have been better off staying at home.
Held at Applesham Farm, Coombes, Near Steyning West Sussex on Saturday 21st September 2019.
This is one of the bigger ploughing matches in the area and the weather always seems to set fair,
and 2019 was no exception with sunshine and blue skies and temperatures which made it feel more
like summer than early autumn.
This year’s match was held on the South Downs within sight of Lancing College, it being 30 years or
more since there has been a match held on a downland farm, which makes for an interesting day for
competitors on the ploughing & hedge laying classes.
Normally the hedge laying competition is not so close to the ploughing however this year the visitors
had to walk pass the hedge laying competition to watch the tractors & horses ploughing or take a
tractor & trailer ride around the site.
They would have seen the cutters battling in the warm sunshine with a good testing hedge mostly
made up of thorn, and with hard underfoot conditions making it hard work to get the stakes into the
Eight cutters did a good job with what they had to work with, and with 9 yards to lay put on a good
event for the visitors to watch.
Gary Moore chose to judge this one, with Dominic Gardner as the steward, and as the afternoon
drew to a close the prize giving took place and the results were ; in 1st place Mike Bentley, 2nd David
Dunk & 3rd Phil Hart.
This is a good show and always well attended but it was good to have the hedge laying close to the
main action, and congratulations to the first three but well done to the cutters on putting a good
competition in such warm conditions.
Next year’s match will be on 20th September at Fairoak farm ; Buncton Manor Farm Wiston near
Chris Burchell Collins
The first coppicing day of the season was a return visit after almost a decade to Blunts Wood. The Society has entered into a copping agreement with Mid Sussex District Council and they welcome our efforts to assist in the sustainable management of ancient woodland.
Although the coppice was verging on being overstood, a decent number of good stakes were harvested , along with a few binders. An area about the size of a tennis court was cleared and should produce excellent material in the future , as deer are unlikely to be a problem in this well used area of public open space.
All who attended really enjoyed themselves – we were outside , being productive and getting exercise for free. It was helped by being such a warm and sunny day. In many ways coppicing is much more social than hedgelaying and less intense.
It was great to see new members Alan and Peter join in with enthusiasm and we look forward to seeing them again at TD1.The longest travelled award goes to Peter and Pat from Essex- many thanks to both.
Thanks also must go to Bob Hunt, who collected the stakes and binders and has them in storage ready for TD1.
The total of our efforts was 310 stakes and 160 binders , which means we have an awful lot more to gather during the season to match our requirements of over 3600 of each.
The next coppicing event is again at Blunts Wood on Saturday 2 November- please can members do all they can to be there and make a contribution to the Society. Let Phill Piddell know if you can make it.
The West Grinstead and District Ploughing and Agricultural Society will be holding their annual
ploughing match and show on September 21 st 2019, at Applesham Farm, Coombes, BN15 0RP, along
with 12 ploughing classes there will the hedge laying competition, hedge cutting plus lots of other
attractions such as terrier racing and sheep classes.
Ahead of the match the society has announced winners in some classes already, the best farmed
farm over 500 acres and the overall winner of the Best Whole Farm Conservation Policy went to
Dominic Gardner and Lee Farm Partnership at Lee Farm Patching. This has been the venue for the
last 2 years of the SEHLS annual competition.
Congratulations to Dominic and the team at Lee Farm from the South of England Hedge Laying
The season has started!
A tough hedge to start us off at Laughton ploughing match. Lots of dead wood, very brittle and plenty of wire.
Two brave souls went hand tools only, everyone else was more sensible :-)
Well done the winners:
3rd Gary Moore (Hand tools)
2nd Steve Mockford (Hand tools)
1st Mike Bentley
Pictures as always:
Following on from the Charity Fun Day in March at Seddlescombe, Phil
Hart , Mike Parrott and Matthew Beard attending a cheque presentation
ceremony at Chailey Heritage Foundation recently and cheque for
£2108 and £18 cash was given to the Foundation.
Chailey Heritage does a tremendous job providing care and education to
children and young adults who have complex disabilities and health
needs, who cannot be accommodated in mainstream education. Chailey
Heritage are world leaders and innovators in this care provision and with
innovation comes significant additional costs which are not met by state
To visit Chailey Heritage is an inspiration of human endeavour,
perseverance and kindness and we all found the experience very
The money given to Chailey will go towards the farm on site – Patchwork
Farm, which is a brilliant experience for the children and makes a real
difference to their lives.
More information about Chailey Heritage can be found at :-
Jenna Durdle, Fundraising Manager has said, “We are extremely
grateful to everyone from the South of England Hedgelaying Society for
continuing to support Chailey Heritage Foundation. The generosity of
your members means a great deal to us. The funds you have donated
will enable us to develop our therapeutic farm, Patchwork Farm. Use
daily by the young people who we support, the funds will be used to help
us plant trees to create more shelter for the animals, and to purchase
raised flower beds and bee-friendly plants. The young people at Chailey
Heritage get a great deal of enjoyment from spending time on our farm,
and without voluntary donations it just wouldn’t be possible.”
So thanks to all those who participated in the Charity Fun Day at
Seddlescombe and got sponsorship- the money will be well spent.
The Society enthusiastically continues to support Chailey Heritage.
I don't like to nit pick other peoples work unless asked to critique to help them improve, but I was left speechless when I saw this advertised:
About Hedge-laying to competition standard
Learn the art of hedge-laying with instruction from award-winning rangers.Hedge-laying is an ancient rural skill that has been used to preserve Dorset hedgerows for centuries. Come and join us for a week of hedge-laying and learn the skills behind this rural craft under the expert guidance of our award-winning rangers. By the end of the holiday you too could be up to competition standard.
I am not going to name names.
It would be interesting to hear what you think
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