I first met Pete approx 25 years ago at a training day at the National Comp site close to Outwood in Surrey, if I remember correctly his pick up had been kicked by a horse which caved the side in.
My grandfather had mentioned Pete to me as he frequently attended our local ploughing matches and Pete had quite often won the hedgelaying comp, over the years I had a few opportunities the do some hedging with Pete, and also helped him cleave out chestnut stakes at Nutfield Priory for a huge job that Pete and Bob Whittaker were undertaking in total the stakes numbered 1000,s so plenty of good experience.
As far as hedging goes Pete's record at the Nationals will probably never be bettered well not in my lifetime he was a superb hedger, his stake lines were greatly admired by all, instead of saying hello he would just say “I hope that’s straight” and laugh at you but it stuck in my head rather!
I remember at the Chew Valley Nationals it had rained all throughout the comp, after getting some food I returned to the hedge to load up my tools, Pete was walking up with someone and said “well you can go home” I laughed and thought oh well. Later they day I was fortunate enough to win.
Recently I have been working at Boxhill in Surrey and in the early 80's Pete had laid the hedges on both sides of the road. I relaid one of them last year and have been back last week to do the hedge at the top of the property.
Opposite the entrance to the farm I could see the edge of a sign and when I took a closer look sure enough it was one of Pete’s in the bottom of the hedge so I rescued it and it’s being cleaned so I can keep it as a reminder of the man I admired most.
I'm sure we all have some great memories of Pete and these words are part of mine he gave his advice freely and I liked that about him. Lastly, it is so very sad that Pete has passed away, what a huge loss he is to the hedging world.
The competition took place at Sandringham on Sunday 1st December 2019.Russell Woodham's photographs of the day are now available on the National Hedgelaying website https://www.hedgelaying.org.uk/ (you need to login with your membership details to be able to see them)
Cast your minds back to the days when the sun shone and it was the ploughing match season.
SEHLS attended the Laughton & District Agricultural Society ploughing match at Firle on Wednesday 18th September 2019, at Firle Place farm, Firle.
It was a wonderful location, just beneath the South Downs which were bathed in beautiful autumn sunshine all day.
The team of SEHLS members in attendance and helping out on the stand laid a demo hedge of silver birch, and it while this was going on a lady called Liz Pearson came along. She presents a local radio programme on Hailsham FM called Mostly Folk. Liz is interested in folk music and tales about Sussex and the various traditions including hedgelaying.
Lis was able to catch up with Des Whitington and interview him about South of England hedge laying; it is about 38 mins into the programme just after the track by the Unthanks called King of Rome.
There is also an interesting piece by the Head brewer from Harvey’s, for those interested in beer.
The link below is for the show and after that is the plan for the programme with timings.
December already and our third training day found us at Horsted Keynes.
A novelty this time with traffic lights and hi-vis jackets, because of which parking was limited.
Today's hedge was a bit of a tricky one, while generally small (some massive stuff) it was a bit of a 3D puzzle in places, so our plucky trainees got some good practice of a "real world hedge".
Looking at the trainees setting off in the distance made me think of a school walking bus (see above), but maybe that was just me.
There was little to clear out so cutting was quite quick to begin and with mostly hazel it was quite easy to get started for most people (those who didn't have a huge tree to deal with anyway)
It soon became apparent that the historic flailing of the hedges caused a lot of knotty growth which was quite a tangle in places. Additionally some of the easy looking sections had hidden challenges to amuse some of the veteran hedgers. All in all a most amusing hedge.
With no food we all brought our own and took brakes as and when.
The weather held out and we we soon managed to get the hedge in shape and add the stakes and binders.
All the sections looked good, and our trainees got some very valuable experience on a bit of a gnarly hedge
I'm sure the locals will appreciate the nice new hedge, although it's not a super busy road (on a Saturday anyway)
Pictures as always
If you have any more pictures please add them, or email them to me and I will add
Bright and early on Sunday morning small contingent from a number of regional hedgelaying societies descended on a field on the Sandringham estate for a training event organised for the National Hedgelaying society's patron, HRH Price of Wales (Prince Charles).
The plan was to run a "fun" competition for young novice hedgelayers', with individual expert tuition from more experienced cutters. The trainees had a very different levels of skill.
Our hedge for the day was a little thin, and quite old, just for fun there was a fair amount of dead wood, and some really good sections of bramble.
Phil Hart issued each trainee with an expert and we set off.
In the South of England section our trainees had all done some laying so had the basic's under their belts so the expert guidance was really to provide specific advice with the trickier stems.
A few trainees didn't turn up, so a few of the experts stepped in and finished the sections themselves, had they not done so there would have been a few un-layed sections.
In the early afternoon our Patron arrived and spoke to everyone working on the hedge (if you don't already know Charles is a very keen hedgelayer)
At the end of the session prizes were awarded and we had a small snack of soup and sausage rolls
In SoE class the results were
3rd Grace Clements
2nd Natasha Stonestreet
1st Jonathan Adams
The weather was with us for the bulk of the day, even ending in glorious sunshine
Thanks to the National Hedgelaying society, the Sandringham estate, and of course our Patron.
Special thanks as always to the individuals behind the scenes, including our very own Phil Hart, and Mandy & Russell Woodham
Pictures as always
Hopefully more pictures to follow, and as always if you have some pictures of the event please add them (or send them to me and I'll add them)
You may have noticed some people sporting some fine branded clothing and wondered how you get your hands on some, well now is your chance!
Today we held training day 2 at a new type of venue, www.blackberrywood.com a quirky camp site in the middle of the countryside at Street (near Plumpton).
Their pitches had scraggy 'hedges' around them, and it was our task today to transform these in to nice hedges.
So an unusual event as we were scattered around the site in little clusters of hedgers, and with such a good turn out we gave the students 1:1 training.
Some of the experts were working on the road, with a more challenging hedge which had been done before many years ago by our very own Clive Gilligan.
The trainee sections were very light and at first glance we wondered if we would get enough material to make a 4' hedge, but once we got cutting it was amazing how much volume there was. With such small stock to work with there was not a huge amount of waste product, what little we produced was hoovered up by the team on site pretty quickly.
All too soon it was time for lunch, but most of the cutting was complete, and some sections had stakes and binders in place.
A very welcome soup and roll washed down with some tea/coffee refreshed everyone for the final push to complete their sections. It was good to have a light hedge as the rain started just after lunch, and the less hardy hedgelayers made a variety of lame excuses and left for home.
Some good work from the trainees, and a special mention for this years most distant travelled cutters Kirsten and Edward from Denmark.
The hardy ones amongst us will be able to add more in the comments, but I'm at home typing this in the dry :-)
Pictures as always (please add any more pictures you have!)
And finally, Mike spotted the recumbent hedgelayer
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