Sunday, 24 February 2013

SoE Annual Competition

Yesterday saw the annual SoE hedgelaying competition at Donnington near Chichester. A cold but bright day and as it had not rained for several days the site was relatively dry - except for a ditch beside the hedge which had a foot or so of water in it.

The hedge itself was variable in both species and thickness. Some parts were neatly planted Hawthorn and Field Maple of three to five inches in diameter, and others thick with one to two inch Blackthorn. All sections were full of bramble but the cants under the large Oaks were very thin.

 My cant was one of the better ones - as were those of my fellow veterans - mainly Hawthorn with some Field maple and a few spindly Blackthorn and Hazel.
Once I had cleared out the bottom and the bramble from the top it looked a lot thinner than in the photo above and one section in particular had no growth at mid-height making it difficult to get some width and density into the hedge.

No intermediate photos I'm afraid as the battery in my camera was flat and I took these on my phone which was also running low. This next two are by Jackie Gilligan - see above for a link to her photo pages.

I was pleased with the finished hedge but as always you think you could have done this better or laid that differently etc. Apparently the judges also liked it, as I won the Veteran Shield by a whisker from frequent sparring partner Clive.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Turning a sow's ear into a silk purse!!

Another Saturday - another hedge but this time with a twist. This hedge had not been planted but had self-seeded over many years along the line of a fence. It consisted of old knotted and rabbit (and more recently sheep) eaten hawthorn with a fair sprinkling of dog rose. Many of the hawthorns were well out of the hedge-line and had to be removed making it rather less substantial than it looks in this shot.
Well, at least the weather was nice - misty at first but then warm with sunny intervals.

It never ceases to amaze me that what appears at first to be an insolvable puzzle can be resolved into something approaching a 'hedge'. In this case we had to cut out a lot of old, dead and 'in the wrong place' wood so as to be able to get some order to the hedge but after it was staked and bound it did not look too bad, although somewhat thin in places. The owner was very pleased and he intends to plant up the whole hedge this week making a permanent living structure in place of what was an old overgrown fence-line. And we had a very nice lunch at the end - which was a bonus.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Patron's competition

Another session squelching about in the mud. As you can see from the photo below the hedge was rather nice being a maiden of about fifteen to twenty years old although some sections looked younger than others. mostly hawthorn with some field maple that had not grown well. Although the hedge was between two fence rows there was more than sufficient room to work.
The weather was grim, dull, misty and with fine rain for most of the morning.The main problem however was the mud and as you can see the field was churned up before we started and by the end of the day it was a quagmire.
My cant being a bit lighter than my neighbour's on the left, I had got it down in good time with minimum use of the chainsaw. The weather by now had got worse with the mist closing in and I was keen to finish off and get a hot drink.
The end result looked pretty good. It being an open competition I had no illusions of being up for a prize - especially with Mr Tunks laying SoE - but I think I came mid way down the order and was happy with that. I did hear the judge saying that he deducted marks for pleachers being split down to the ground and must chat to my mentors about that.
The day was rounded off nicely with some tasty soup and sausage baps and the usual speeches etc. Do watch out for the Countryfile programme to be shown in March.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Wimpole competition

On Saturday I participated in a competition at the Wimpole Estate Cambridgeshire. A rather fine day given the weather conditions we have experienced recently. The hedge was a maiden of about fifteen or so years that had been nibbled by deer and hares in its early life and flailed repeatedly at about  the five foot mark and then left to grow up for about four years. This presented the usual problems of multiple stems at ground level, a tightly knotted middle section and long straggly tops. 

I originally intended to cut and lay with hand tools only but decided against this after drawing my cant and checking the number of large awkward stems but did try to keep the chainsaw work to a minimum.
Fortunately we were laying from the field side as there was a large water-filled ditch on the other, however this did cause a few problems when laying off the first stems as these were tall and heavy and prone to falling down the bank and needed to be propped up in many cases.

The finished result was not too bad and won me a second place in the SoE open class.
All in all a very enjoyable day rounded off with some great venison stew and home made bread courtesy of Simon Damant of the Wimpole Estate.