Monday, 15 December 2014

Root and Back Laying

Out with SEHLS on Saturday at Rotherfield. For a change the weather was cold, dry and sunny although the recent rain had left the fields and tracks waterlogged and very soon the area around the hedge turned to mud.

There were two sections of hedge being tackled and I was with a small group of six working on an old and much bashed-about hedge that needed rejuvenating. As you can see from the photo below the hedge was a continuation of a trimmed section, about twelve feet high and next to a redundant farm building.

It had been cut at various heights in the past resulting in multiple stems and a very tangled upper section.

One of the first plants I had to lay in my cant was a Hawthorn where the stem had two sizeable roots either side of where the hinge would normally be but had rotted away underneath. This could not be laid in the normal way so I severed the root on the far side and then cut down the stem so that it was held by just the root on this side.

This allowed the stem to be laid over, retaining the root to keep the plant alive and leaving the now separated heal to the right to form a new plant. It's not laid right down yet as it is being held up by the laid-off stems out of shot to the left.

The next problem was a large five stemmed stool of what I think is red-stemmed willow - not easy to see from the photo but this years growth was a deep red colour. This stool had been much hacked about in the past and if there had been more material around it I might have just laid the stem on the front left and then trimmed the stool down nearer ground level. However, I needed to fill in the gaps so I laid all the stems bar one and back-laid the one on the right. This can be difficult if the stem is in any way brittle as it has to be bent back at an acute angle, but luckily this one behaved itself. A few contorted stems of Blackthorn can be seen on the right of the photo and with multiple pleaches these were brought in to fill the gaps.

A bit further down the cant was a large old Hawthorn, which again can prove challenging but this one was sound and not too brittle and went down well.

The hedge was so tangled in places a bit of climbing was required to free it up.

By the time we got round to the final clear up the light was fading and it was getting cold. This hedge had presented us with a number of challenges and at times it seemed an impossible task but in the end we made a great job of it and breathed new life into an old neglected hedge.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Cherkley Court - Second Session

On a somewhat surprisingly - in this rather mild early winter - frosty morning SHG were back at Cherkley Court. This time we had two hedges to lay within the complex. One was in the 'car park' and the other at, what will become in due course, the main entrance. I was assigned to the latter, which was a maiden double row hedge of some ten or so years; mostly Hawthorne but with a few Field Maple and Spindle mixed in. There was no field layer to speak of and, other than some Clematis vitalba tangling the tops, there was no impediment to laying the mostly 2 to 4 inch stems.

This piece of work was difficult to photograph due to the proximity of a rather busy road and the fact that we were working on the north side on what was a very bright sunny day.

It would appear that the hedge had been cut at about four foot at some time in the last few years but was otherwise unmolested. So it was easy enough work and handled in the main with hand tools.

Although this hedge was planted as a double row, many of the whips had not taken and there were many sections of single row stems and some sizeable gaps. In the photo below Con is healing-in some whips in one such gap. Note the heavy frost on the grass in the background. Even a short lived frost such as this has a surprising effect on the interaction of metal cutting tools and living wood. There is a distinct sound and brittleness to the cut, and 'Yorkshires' have a pronounced ring to them when cutting the pleach. I'm told that after prolonged periods of hard frost - not something we get to often nowadays - even young stems become so brittle that they are impossible to cut and lay without them breaking off.

As I said, not great photos due to the bright sun coming from the 'wrong' direction, but this shot shows the finished section from the East. This will be mirrored on the West side of the entrance when we lay that side in January.

Another shot looking East, with the strong sunlight makeing the hedge look rather thinner than it actually is, but with a nice stake line - and the frost still on the grass at 1300hrs.


Looking from inside the entrance you get a different perspective and I wish I had taken more shots from this side, although the brash rather obscures the view.