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  • Writer's pictureCrone

Laid hedges

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

I'm practicing writing some copy for the Trust... as I am lazy, I thought I would copy here a little write-up on hedges...


Hedges act as natural stock proof boundaries between fields which also support biodiversity.

Where there is just an existing fence, new hedges can be planted using native species. The remains of old hedges can be improved for conservation by laying them.

To lay a hedge, we cut about three quarters of the way through a blackthorn or hawthorn stem, low to the ground and at a downward, and then lay down the small tree or upright growth without breaking the connection. The plant will remain vital and respond with new shoots that rise upward, producing a dense but narrow thicket. The hedge is supported using strong hazel struts – cut from coppiced hazel on our reserves – at 1m intervals. They, in turn, are strengthened at the top by weaving together long hazel poles (again, sourced from our reserves).

Standard trees along the hedge ensure a varied structure and will support more birds, mammals and invertebrates as well as fungi and lichen.

Laid hedges provide fantastic habitats. They offer protection from the weather and good nesting sites, while the flowers and berries provide nectar and food. Mice, voles, hedgehogs, stoats, weasels and even foxes and badgers will also find shelter and a safe corridor to pass between different locations.

As well as the benefits to the wildlife on the site, the hedgerow is cost effective. The Trust does not need to buy in posts, wire and staples. This use of locally sourced products is sustainable and environmentally benign.


I prefer the idea of laying blackthorn and hawthorn by hand to chainsawing them - though the latter would be far faster.


This hedge looks like it was laid many years ago.

But on the whole, it seems to just comprise scrubby bushes that have been repeated cut. They needed fencing to make it stockproof.


On hedges, this is from Roger Deakin's Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees:


Laid hedges are certainly more stock-proof, and their trees grow into interesting, contorted shapes. Very old laid hedges can be works of the hedgers’ art: a kind of tree jazz, improvised down the generations. A laid hedge is also sturdier and more stable. But the modern farmer’s or conservationist’s natural impulse towards tidiness and management is mostly one to resist when it comes to hedges. Unless you can lay them by hand, far better to leave them alone to be as wild as they like and grow into their own shapes. I know of nothing uglier or more saddening than a machine-flailed hedge. It speaks of the disdain of nature and craft that still dominates our agriculture. Even after years of benign neglect, plashed hedges stand as monuments to the best traditions of good husbandry.


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maplekey4
Oct 28, 2022

I found this interesting article about hedgelaying etc in Ontario. https://www.smallfarmcanada.ca/features/the-traditional-farm-hedgerow/


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Crone
Crone
Oct 28, 2022
Replying to

Wow! Thank you for that - it's fascinating!

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maplekey4
Oct 27, 2022

I finally have a better sense of the process and the results, thanks to your post. Not something that I've ever seen done here -- but maybe I should do a search.

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