Sunday, 24 November 2013

The John French Competition

Another day, another hedge - and this time not such a nice one. Very variable with a lot of heavy stuff at one end and quite thin at the other, with every variation in between. It was a planted hedge of unknown age but judging by the gnarled old hawthorns and the size of the stems on the oaks it was well over thirty years old. It had been repeatedly flailed at about four feet and the rabbits had decimated the planted stems in places creating large gaps. Over the years some Willow had grown up from the ditch bank as had the Blackthorn suckers. The hedge was also full of bramble and rose - not the hedge layers favourites.  You can see in the photo below the remains of an old picket fence, fortunately without wire!

 This is my cant - about half way down the hedge. A bit of everything in here. On the left some medium sized Blackthorn. In the centre a lot of rabbit damage and some old fencing. Most of the tall growth you can see, comes from a large willow stool growing in the ditch at the back and then on the right some gnarled old Hawthorns with three feet of new top-growth.

I know we hedge layers all like to moan about the cant we get but mine was really thin at the front with most of the growth coming from the ditch bank. What I do need to get to grips with is how to lay a hedge up the bank and still make it solid and stock-proof.

So below is my cant at the finish - no time to take photos before as I was sweating like a bull trying to get all the rose out of the tops and get the hedge down in time. Most people were having the same problem and as a result the judges extended the time allowed by three-quarters of an hour (we were laying 11 meters in five hours).

Not my finest hour as you can see and a bit thin on the right due to not much material coming over from my neighbour.

This next shot illustrates my problem. You will see that the hedge-line in the background is quite straight but then the bank continues towards the lower middle-left of the picture with no plants on it at all. What growth there is comes from the ditch on the right. Must get to grips with how to deal with this. Have to say I was not the only one with this problem.

Now if you want to see a nice straight stake-line and a thick, even hedge, look no further than this effort by Mr Tunks, who was placed second.

 Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the winning hedge but I am delighted to report that it was laid by Mike Bentley and a great job he did too. Frank got 'best work on a poor length'  which was also well deserved.

John had laid on a really nice lunch and thanks to him for this and a great, well organised competition - if a very hard one.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


Had a week away in Ireland so a bit late in posting this and the next post. It was a busy weekend with a SHG visit to Tatsfield on the Saturday and the John French Competition on the Sunday.

The Tatsfield hedge was a continuation of one we had done last season, separated by a field gate. However, this section was a much better prospect, with some nice planted sections of Hawthorne, Blackthorn and Field Maple. There were some difficult sections with large, heavy stems to be positioned and at the top end a very thin section of Blackthorn.

Forgot to take any photos before we started laying but this is one of the lower section taken some time into the job.

The next shot shows Con giving a master-class in staking and binding.

Now some work with hand tools on some of the reasonable sized Hawthorns under the supervision of Fred H.

In another section Fred O gets to work with the chainsaw.


And now the top section of the hedge, staked and bound. As I said, it is a bit thin this end but the final result looks neat with a nice straight stake line and the binders following the contours of the land just enough without exaggerating them. By this time the sun had disappeared behind the clouds making it look like a different day.

This next shot shows a section of the hedge we laid last season. The regrowth is not good due to the poor condition of the original hedge but it is there and hopefully in another year or so it will thicken up and gain some height.