Crafting a Hedge: What is a Laid Hedge?

Click here for the National Hedgelaying Society

In the last post Edward mentioned laying hedges.  Hedgelaying was the primary form of hedge management until the last war.  Sometimes on walks you might see evidence of ancient laid hedges.  This sycamore was laid many decades ago:  that is why its trunk is horizontal.  But you can also see why farmers laid hedges:  as long as the trunk is not cut all the way through, it will heal and then send up many new vertical shoots.  In this way the hedge slowly grows into a dense mesh.

old laid hedge WalesThere are many reasons why this form of hedge is good for both livestock and wildlife.  If it is left unmanaged, a hedgerow will continue to grow upwards and outwards and will eventually become a line of trees. A row of tree trunks does not provide shelter like a hedge, and neither does a wire fence.  As the bushes in the hedge grow upwards, it become possible for cattle and sheep to make gaps or push through:  that is what sadly happened to the young lamb that was killed on the A352 a few weeks ago.

Hedges are an important haven for wildlife. They give pleasure to humans as well, not only because they look lovely but also they divide up the landscape into the beautiful  patchwork characteristic of Albion.

brompton_hedgelaying_tA well-laid Shropshire hedge  A well-managed hedgerow is thick and bushy, an impenetrable barrier to sheep and cattle and a haven for wildlife.  When a hedge is laid, the cut stems are bent over at an angle.  In order to prevent the sheep pushing through, stakes driven into the hedge.  Binding along the top makes the fence strong to resist the weight of cattle. Laying the hedge also tidies it up and encourages the shrubs to regenerate keeping the hedge bushy and healthy. A laid hedge after a yearovergrown laid hedge

Once a hedge has been laid regular trimming will keep it in good order for up to 50 years when it may be appropriate to lay the hedge again, or even coppice it.