Matt, Spike and Catherine hosted a hedgelaying event for two groups of volunteers last weekend, they were working on the hedge on Collards Lane on the way in to Swan Barn Farm.

Thanks very much to everyone who came along and volunteered, even though the weather on sunday was pretty rotten. The hedge looks great, it really makes the entrance to the property look cared for, and it is always nice to see a traditional skill like this being utilised and passed on.

First of all the excess growth is trimmed out of the hedge so that what is left will fold over neatly into a well woven screen.

Then the upright stakes are knocked in. These ones came from the same hazel coppice that is providing a lot of the materials for the Speckled Wood building.

The upright stems of the hedge have a series of cuts put in the back of them, these cuts are placed so that the leading edge of the tree stays attached to the stump, this means that the folded over stem will stay alive and continue to grow in its new position.

The skill lies in cutting at the right angle so that the stem folds over neatly, but enough of the living wood remains attached so the layed stem will stay alive. New shoots will now grow up from the base thickening up the hedge and providing stems for next time its layed.

The layed stems are then woven between the stakes to provide an attractive hedge. Lastly a series of binders, long thin hazel rods, are wound together around the tops of the stakes to hold the whole thing in place. If it’s done well, and the hedge is thick enough it can be used as a stockproof boundary. Layed hedges used to be a common feature in the landscape, but unfortunately it is quite rare to see them these days. They provide fantastic wildlife habitat, look beautiful and ensure the longevity of the tree’s they are made off. A hedge flailed by a tractor and its associated machinery is a poor substitute.

Hedgerows make important habitat coridors for a number of species by linking together woodlands. One of the species of wildlife which uses this hedge is the Dormouse. Here you can see Matt holding one we found in this hedge in a specially made nestbox which we use for monitoring their population.

They are fascinating little creatures, and they rely on exactly the sort of habitat work we do in the hedgrows and woods here at Swan Barn Farm.