Paul Blissett Hedgelaying

30 years hedgelaying in Bucks, Beds & Herts
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October / November 2017

253 yards massively overgrown hedge, using live stakes, Quarrendon Leas, Aylesbury

All my other work on this site was done the previous season.
The aim was to bring this long-neglected hedge back into management and to block off two points where the hedge had pushed up the fence wire so that the sheep could get through to the adjoining field via the ditch.
The original intention was to re-fence the inside of the hedge, but in the event, the hedge proved stockproof

This hedge comprised mostly hawthorn and plum and sat very wide on a bank with a very deep ditch on one side.
There were a lot of surplus trees on the ditch side to be felled which were left until the hedge had been laid to take down.

View from start of hedge before ...

.... and after.

View part-way down looking back to start, before ...

... and after. The large tree is a poplar.

View inside field, looking from end back to the start, before ...

... and after. The large tree is another poplar.

As always, the hedgelayer gets to decide which trees to leave to grow on as standard trees. The first one I left was this attractive field maple

No shortage of material to work with in this hedge!

Much of the hedge was 6-8ft wide when laid, much wider than usual. Here, a decent hawthorn  has been left to grow on as a tree with a field maple further on.

The plum had suckered profusely and this section was 10-12ft wide and creeping down towards the ditch.

If you look carefully you can see four live stakes here, two shorter ones in the foreground and two longer ones further back. Although here they appear more-or-less opposite each other they work just as well staggered. The hedge is being laid down the middle between them making it very secure. The taller stakes will be shortened later to make them unobtrusive.

Note how regular the finish is looking along the top of the hedge.
Nearly all of the remaining trees will be felled later.

One of two gaps that the sheep used daily.
First the hedge had lifted the wire netting and then the sheep could push through underneath, lifting it further. Before ...

... and after. No sheep are getting through there anytime soon!

About 5ft tall and 8ft wide, with the tall plum laid very flat and compressed between live stakes, this is a very effective barrier against sheep.
All those unused stems on the far (ditch) side of the hedge have yet to be felled.

Getting towards the end - the second large poplar.

Here, from the ditch side of the hedge, you can see a cluster of field maple stems that have been left as together they make a decent shape tree,
a dead poplar stump left as habitat and a mountain of brush on the far side.

Here, an awkward group of goat willow have been cut level with the laid hedge rather than cut them to ground level and create a weak point.
Poplar has little value as firewood so has been left  to create habitat.

Sheep's eye view of the hedge.

General view of hedge looking towards the end.

General view looking towards start of hedge.
The first tree is a goat willow that was a good enough shape to keep.

Greensand Trust hedgelaying training course, South of England, Eversholt

This course took place over two days at the Eversholt Millennium Pond site where the volunteers could also cut the hazel stakes and binders on site which is quite rare.
The hedge was very variable - some old and awkward to work and some more recent infill planting that was more suitable for volunteers.
We knew that that the hedge could not be completed in the weekend and that I would return to complete it subsequently.
The volunteers laid almost half the hedge - a 24 yard section was completed and another 17 yard section laid and staked.
In addition, all the arisings were burned and the site left tidy.

Looking to start of hedge, before ...

... during ...

... and after, looking on with satisfaction.

The pair at the start of the hedge have made a tidy start, watched by curious onlookers in the field. The red and white tape round the base of the tree is to ensure that it is left as a standard ...

... a bit further on, the tape has done its job and a beech tree left standing ...

 ... and now they are putting the binders on their section of hedge.

Although the direction of lay is towards the left, I have laid part of an old awkward clump in the foreground back the other way. Here it looks a bit of a mess ...

... but here all has come good. The first stem laid back was trimmed so it was stable enough to support the second and brush from the next stems fill the gap.

This very handsome observer is a red poll calf.

This is the other section of hedge that the volunteers worked on, before ...

... and after. They have laid everything they can with hand tools and left a young oak, a descendant of the Bunyan Oak.

I wanted to get at least some of the large hawthorn in the middle into the hedge before we finished ...

... but three stems later we had to stop and call it a day.
I returned to complete this hedge in February 2018

The volunteers set off for home well pleased with their weekend's endeavours.