Saturday, 14 March 2015

Last session of the season

The last session with SEHLS was held on Saturday on the Angmering  Estate. This was a charity event and continued on from the hedge laid during the annual competition a couple of weeks ago. A lovely hedge to lay with hand tools; mostly Hawthorn with some Guelder Rose and Hazel in my cant.

The planting was quite widely spaced, with a few gaps and little side growth as it had been closely fenced. I was pleased with the cutting and the build was going OK.

I was one cant down from Peter (his is furthest from the camera) and we finished about the same time - only because he went for a walk - so we ran the binders straight through, as this gives a much better finish. As pleased with this as anything else I have done this season.

And I nearly managed a stake line as straight as his!!

Note the teeth marks of the Hares on the binder nearest the camera. Not sure why they would eat hazel bark that is not that fresh in preference to the young rape plants growing in the field.

Further down the line, at the bottom of the valley they had done a very nice switch from left to right hand laying.

In total the run is over 500 yards and is looking very nice.

So, with the exception of tidying up the coppice next Saturday, that's it for another season.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

SEHLS on tour 2015

I was fortunate to be able to join a small group of SEHLS hedge layers on a visit to The Netherlands. The purpose of the visit was to help with a training day and to take part in the annual Maasheggenvlechten festival of hedges and hedge laying.

The training hedge was a continuation of the one we worked on last year (link), about twelve years old and easily manageable with hand tools.

 Some sections contained nice stems of Beech, Hawthorne and Field Maple but others had block-planted Dog Rose and Guelder Rose.

After the lunch break Phil gave a short talk on tool care and sharpening.

 I was working with Sjoerd, who has some experience of hedge laying but wanted to brush up on cutting techniques and building the hedge. We drew the end cant that had a great deal of Guelder Rose in it and ended with a large section of tangled Dog Rose. It wasn't ideal but we worked through pleaching small and large stems, back laying and double pleaching.

 We were both pleased with the end result...

 ...and the stake line was nice and straight.

On Sunday we moved to Oeffelt for the Maasheggen festival. This is an area of land on the flood plain of the Maas River. It has been managed in a manner that recreates the field systems that existed before the last war and several kilometres of hedges have been planted over the last twenty years. This year is the tenth anniversary of the festival and its popularity continues to grow. The photo below shows the competitors getting their pre-session greeting and photo-shoot. I believe that thirty four teams, of between two and five competitors, took part laying the local style.

Gary and Phil entered the competition and Peter and myself laid Midland and SoE respectively as demonstration cants in an area set aside for international styles.

We got about ten metres each of rather heavy hedge (for hand tools that is) which had no field layer and good top growth. There was some rabbit - or more likely hare - damage and some rot caused by the use of the flail cutter.


The axe work was enjoyable although some of the stems had rot but were not particularly brittle.

As was the case last year, the weather was dry and very warm - so warm in fact that Peter was forced to remove his trade mark blue overalls!

The photo below is a close up of the cant laid by a couple from France who were laying their local style. The large stem has been sawn through to the extent that one would when cutting a pleacher and then laid over. I have seen this method before but never with this level of skill. Note there is no split-back and the hinge is of exactly the right proportions. We might say that the heal would be better cut at an angle to allow water to run off.

The style practised in Flanders is thin and sparse with small stems tied into the hedge with willow whips.

Although the International section was away from the main competition, good numbers of visitors came to look at our hedges. Visitor numbers were estimated by the organisers to be in the region of 10,000 - imagine that at our Nationals!

This is the local style. Rather sparse and very open at the bottom to our eyes but I am told that as this is a flood plain account is taken of debris building up against the hedge in times of flood that might sweep the hedge away. Live stakes (crops) give good stability and the tops of these are pleached along and woven into the top of the hedge.

This is the winning team looking very pleased with the Golden Heap.

Two of our champions discuss a great weekend. Many thanks are due to our Dutch hosts who made us most welcome and were very  generous with their hospitality.

A YouTube slide show of more photgraphs from the trip is available HERE