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.