Friday, 1 March 2019

Hedge Laying in The Langdale Valley.

Hedge Laying originated mainly from the need to keep livestock in fields...especially after the 18th century Enclosure Acts. These acts created legal property rights to land that was once held in common.

 Nowadays more emphasis is placed on the value of the habitat that a well laid hedge can provide for small mammals, birds, and invertebrates; hedge laying also promotes traditional skills and they look good in the landscape.

Our main project for February was to lay 135 metres of a hawthorn hedge that was planted 10 years ago at Harry Place Farm in the beautiful Langdale Valley. This also involved taking down the fence on the top side and replacing it with a new fence. 
A close up of the hedge with the old fence removed from the top side; the fence posts had become very rotten and unstable!
With the fence removed the hedge laying begins. An axe or a bill hook is used to partially cut...a technique known as pleaching... into the back of the stem at an angle to just above ground level. The trick is to leave enough sapwood and bark for the stem to flourish and yet make the stem pliable enough to be be be laid down. 
On thicker stems a chain saw is used to speed up this process.
A pruning saw is used to cut back to the remaining section of the stem, known locally as a ligger, once it is laid.
A view of the ligger and the partially coppiced stump from which new growth will usually occur to be laid in years to come.
The hedge is taking shape .
Weaving in the branches and twiggy bits .
Starting on the new fence by digging a hole for one of the strainer posts.
The newly laid hedge complete with hedging stakes hammered in alternately on either side; they are used to "train" the hedge, give it strength, and to keep it to a required width.
A Herdwick sheep enjoys munching on a discarded branch from the hedge laying.
Incidentally, Herdwick is derived from the old Norse Herdvyck meaning sheep pasture!
The completed hedge with one of the larger hawthorn trees left upright as a "standard" with a view of the Langdale Pikes and Blea Rigg. 

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