Thursday, 26 February 2015

SEHLS Annual Competition

Sunday saw the SEHLS annual competition - yes, the day following the Patron's competition. Taking place on the Angmering Estate, West Sussex within the South Downs National Park there could not have been a more beautiful setting for a hedge laying competition. The weather behaved itself, with a bright frosty start and, although it clouded over later, it stayed dry until we reached the pub for lunch and prizes. The Skylarks sang, Buzzards soared over the woods and without the background roar of chainsaws (a hand tools only competition) it was a very peaceful and enjoyable day.

The hedge itself was some twelve or so years old, double planted and consisting -in the veteran section - of Hawthorn with some Hazel. Some cants at the top of the hill had more Hazel and consequently more stems to the yard. The hedge had been fenced against rabbits and whilst this had in the main been removed, some of the wire remained in the ground. There was little field layer, except ivy in some cants and no bramble or rose. Unfortunately the hedge had been flailed more than once at about eight feet producing some nasty stag-horns but then left to grow on about another three feet.

I didn't take any photos for a while as I was concerned about time but in fact there was plenty thanks to the lightness of the hedge and the lack of clearing out to be done before laying.

Everyone finished in good time and the standard was very high. The novice class in particular must have been difficult to judge as they had all done an exceptional job - pity I didn't think to take some photos of their cants; this however is a shot up the hedge from the champions and senior sections, with the veterans and novices at the top.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Patron's Competition 2015

After last years cancellation due to heavy rain we were hoping for a dry day for the Patron's Competition and we were granted this wish - at least until a hail shower within the last hour. The hedge was close to, and similar in nature to the 2013 hedge being about fifteen years old, mainly Hawthorn with some Field Maple and Hazel. I believe 48 cutters were present, cutting Midland, South of England, North Somerset and two Welsh styles.

As you can see the hedge was not at all heavy, with little field layer, no rose or bramble and mercifully it had not been flailed or cut at any time.

Whilst the hedge had been planted in two rows, in some places the plants on the field side had died or had poor growth. In the example below the clump of Field Maple may well have stunted the growth on the north side.

Whilst a hedge of this age and structure could be presumed to hold few challenges, in every cant there are always some difficult stems. In trying to make a thick hedge one strives to keep as much as possible but twisted and interlocked stems can make for some difficult decisions.

Looking up the South of England cants at the end of the session...

...and I managed a reasonably straight stake line

A flavour of the relaxed and jovial side of this event is shown by this Midland competitor from Lancaster flying the flag of John of Gaunt over his cant.

And finally a shot of Alan finishing off his Midland cant.