Friday, 20 January 2017

Old Crafts.

The farmer is busy keeping our hedges in check and also mending the stone walls here and there.   The former tend to get a bit tangled with brambles which do mean that sheep get entanged more and more until they just cannot escape; the sheep do also tend to knock down bits of stone wall.   So, as Robert Frost so rightly said - Good fences make good neighbours and we don't want our always adventurous sheep to get over into next door's fields.

Once a year we have Mike, who arrives one day after the bird-nesting season is finished and trims all our hedges (mostly a mixture of hawthorn, blackberry, holly, ash and field maple) keeping them trim and also thick.   Constant cutting every year does mean that they never get a chance to thin out, and the small birds (yellow hammer, chaffinch, hedge sparrow) can build their nests well-hidden from prying eyes.

But it would be a shame if the old-fashioned hedge laying art died out.   The same applies to many of the old farming skills which disappeared with the advent of more and more modern machinery.

I came across an article today about The National Hedgelaying Society (Patron H R H The Prince of Wales), which is dedicated to keep the ancient art alive.   My father-in-Law used to lay all of our hedges and it is still possible to see his handiwork along the base of most of the hedges around the farm.   It is a time-consuming job and hard work to boot, but it would be a shame if it were to die out completely.   So it is good to see and read that there are still enthusiasts of the art (and it certainly is an art) around.

Now all the bramble prunings have been gathered up and brought back to pile ready for a bonfire on a day when the wind is in the right direction.   If it is a really cold day so much the better as it is lovely and warm standing close (at your front in any case even if your back is still freezing).

14 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...

Regular flaying of hedges by tractors, as well as looking unsightly, can also cause a lot of die back of hedges, or at least that's certainly been the case in places where I live. It's a shame that people only hope that old skills don't die out, rather than actually practising them.
Apparently Countryfile was being filmed yesterday on the marshes where I go daily. They were filming Marsh Harriers, of which we have a lot. Hopefully that will be on in the next few weeks.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

In the countryside, old hedges and old drystone walls are important ingredients in making our rural environment so beautiful. Barbed wire fences and wooden fencing just don't cut the mustard. However, I recognise that it is very challenging for modern day farmers to keep up those old labour-intensive methods of making and maintaining boundaries.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

I marvelled at your country's hedges when I saw them this past summer, Pat. I do hope there are some young people out there, apprenticing and continuing this skill. It would be a horrible shame if the hedges eventually died out. -Jenn

Cro Magnon said...

Here we have neither stone walls or hedges to enclose our fields. It's all electric fences. Not a pretty sight!

Rachel said...

The hedges in this county look spiffingly good with very fine men on tractors looking after them.

angryparsnip said...

Had to look up Hedge Laying. I think it was mostly how you trim the bushes.
I thought it was how you plant some different plants to grow together to hold back the sheep. So very interesting on the different styles of hedge laying.

cheers, parsnip

Dawn McHugh said...

The new land we have bought is surrounded with hedges, unfortunately they have been neglected for 11 years and allowed to grow into trees giving no shelter to livestock or wildlife, we are having to cut them back very severe to encourage growth from the bottom, it is a project that is going to take a few years before we see the results and have proper hedges.

Librarian said...

I hope all your hedges and stone walls are soon back in shape. Like nearly everybody else, I would regret to see even more old crafts dying out, but personally, I don't do anything to keep them alive - it's a shame, isn't it? I am very much a town girl and hope others will do the hard work for me...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Such interesting comments so far. In answer I would say:
Derek - I agree absolutely about flaying. Iy is done along some roadsides here leaving an awful mess on the road and verge and absolutely destroying any shaping to the hedge. Our hedge cutting man does the job professionally and neatly, just cutting back and pruning to encourage new growth in the spring.
YP. I think you are right. Hedge layers were part of the work force in the days when farm labourers were employed by the farmers and probably on a large farm one man would be skilled in the art of hedge laying and would spend his whole life doing nothing else.
Rachel - I suspect that P may well be one of those 'fine men' - and you are right - on the whole our hedges in this country are well looked after. Possible exceotions are as Derek says, where flaying takes place - often to save time.
Parsnip - a perfectly laid hedge is a beayutiful sight to behold.
Dawn - you have quite a job in front of you there. Are you intending to get in an expert to point you in the right direction. Badly neglected hedges are a disgrace to the farmer who owns the fields.
Librarian - we can't all be country folk. I am sure there are plenty of jobs in towns too which need to be watched.

Sue in Suffolk said...

A hedgelaying person where we used to live had a good business name - Hedgery!

Heather said...

I have always thought that a well layed hedge is a work of art and beautiful to see. We seem to see too many flayed hedges here and they are an eyesore.
There is nothing to please most of the senses more than a good bonfire.

Jenny said...

I detest the slash and burn type of horticulture, our communal garden here is constantly trimmed and shaped beyond nature and usually at the wrong time of year. Last week I saw the council brutally cutting back the gorse in our town garden, just as it is about to flower. Such a pity old skills don't get passed on, what happened to training I wonder. My Dad could lay a hedge and so can my brother, I think these days most folk have no idea what that is.

Jacqui Fenner-Dixon said...

I live in Somerset where the art of hedge laying is alive and well. I love to see it and marvel at the skill required.

thousandflower said...

The last time we were in England, the time we visited with you, we watched a group laying a hedge on a National Trust property in Dorset. It was fascinating to watch.