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26th Oct 2013
Placed fourth in Open Midland class at National Championships. See Photos »

8th Feb 2014
Karl will again be visiting Highgrove to compete in the "Patron’s Competition" – an invitation-only event, hosted by HRH Prince Charles, Patron of the National Hedge Laying Society.

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What Is Hedgelaying?

Hedge laying is a country skill typically found in England and is used to achieve a number of goals:-

  • To form a livestock-proof barrier.
  • To help rejuvenate an ageing hedgerow by encouraging it to put on new growth and by helping to improve its overall structure and strength.
  • To provide greater weather protection for crops and local wildlife.
  • To provide a pleasing screen to a garden or field.

Below are various pictures that hopefully illustrate the theory behind laying a hedge and what it should look like when it's finished;

Basic Hedgelaying Diagram

(Diagram 1 - Hedge laying basics)

The above diagram shows the four basic stages (the varies slightly with style) in laying a hedge, below i've described each stage, what's happening in the diagram and the purpose of doing it:

Stage 1:

This (Top left image on diagram) is how the hedge is before you start, the first thing you need to do is sort out the parts you want to lay and the parts that aren't worth it. This is determined by a number of factors:

  • How much material is in the hedge - this means is it a thick hedge full of possible stems to be laid or more sparse. If it's a densely packed hedge you can afford to pick the best stems. The stems you want are the tall, straight and healthy looking ones. However this is often not the case.
  • What species you have in your hedge. This has a massive influence on how well it will grow back and what kind of finished product you end up with. Hawthorne is ideal as it's bushy, relatively easy to lay and greats a good barrier from animals etc. Other good species are hazel, blackthorn and more obscure species such as beech. The hedgelayers arch enemy is elder, elder often takes over hedgerows and is useless in a laid hedge, the only thing that can be done is cut it down and poison it so it doesn't grow back.
  • Are there any gaps in the hedge - if so you need to save as much material either side of the gap to fill it in.
  • Does the material fit in with the line of the hedge - you want to have a nice straight hedge if possible, a wide base of the hedge it may not be possible to use all the good material.

Once all the above is done you need to make sure the bottom of the hedge is clear - this is so it's clear for when you make your pleach (one in from top left diagram).

Stage 2:

Once you've separated the stems it's time to start pleaching. This is shown in the top right of diagram 1 and below in diagram 2.

Hedge pleaching techniques

(Diagram 2 - Hedge pleaching techniques)

The basic idea behind pleaching is chop down the back side of the stem using a bill hook (see tools below) or a chainsaw depending on the size. The next stage is then effectively bending the stem over until it's resting either on the floor or the last stem to be laid Doing this keeps the tree alive, however once it has been layed it will throw up alot of shoots thus making a very thick hedge.

Typical Hedgelaying tools

(Typical hedgelaying tools)

Finishing Off: The final finishing off touches are firstly to put bindings along the top of the hedge (see pic below), this is used to help hold the hedge in place and keep it compact, it's also done out of aesthetics, competitions have a large amount of marks given out on how straight and level the bindings are.

Completed Hedge

(Completed Hedge - Midland Style)

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