Friday, 10 February 2012

Thursday 24th November 11 Hedge Laying

For maybe 20 years, one of the many things in my list of 'I'd like to try' was hedge laying... a way of pruning and managing a field boundary which rejuvenates the vegetation, and looks attractive, and makes it 'stock-proof', ie sheep and cattle cannot get though it.  Well, today I had my chance!

However, it meant visiting a place I have boycotted since it got built: The McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Centre, which was built on the site of the old Naburn Hospital, and the site of my first Non Violent Direct Action, trying to prevent an out-of-town shopping centre being built.  Part of this site was an old orchard, and fortunately, although hundreds of trees were cut down to build shops and car parking, the orchard escaped.  More recently, there were plans to build a garden centre over the orchard area, but the community who valued these trees rose up and stopped the development.  McArthur Glen has entrusted the orchard to Fulford Community Orchard.

So the Southern edge of the orchard is a belt of trees and an old overgrown hawthorn hedge, with some of the trees making this hedge having trunks up to 20cm across... not the best size for trying to lay at 90 degrees to the way they naturally grow.  I arrived at 9.30 and some BTCV volunteers were taking tools towards the hedge, and Paul, the leader took us through the basics, what the tools were, a brief health and safety talk, and then he put me with an experienced hedge layer, who showed me how he did it.

The hedge had already been thinned out a bit, and the tops taken off, so the height was perhaps 4 to 5 metres, and some of the dead wood removed.  The method was to make a horizontal cut with a bow saw quite near the ground, and then to cut away above this with a billhook, making a sloping cut, to allow the top of the plant to be carefully bent over to near horizontal, where it rests on the last one laid down.  The important part is there needs to be a little bit of bark hinge connecting the now horizontal part with the roots, so it can keep growing and be a living hedge.  However, these old plants had quite brittle stems as they were old, and some broke off as they were carefully bent over.  But this is OK really, as they are staked into place with the still living stems, and other cut wood put in too, to make a 'dead hedge', filling in the gaps and making the hedge more solid. I found using the billhook quite difficult, as it's a two-handed tool, and I'm used to using a machete, which is one-handed.  But we got our stretch done, and I was really pleased with this.

I left at about 2.30, as I wanted to collect some fungi I'd seen on the way in; I got a good bag full of shaggy ink caps, which have a wonderful delicate flavour, one of my favourite mushrooms.

I got in just before 4pm and had an hour and a half before going out to work for David... we went to City Screen and he caught up with a newspaper, and I met up with my friends Jonathan and Trish.

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