Hedgelaying


Why lay a hedge?

A hedge left untouched or just trimmed at the same point each year will deteriorate. The trees and shrubs in the hedgerow grow tall, sprouting high up rather than near to the ground leaving gaps in the hedge below. The hedge will no longer function as a boundary or an enclosure. The diversity of the flora and fauna is also lost. To correct this decline, a hedge should be laid about every 15 to 30 years.

Hedgelaying involves cutting partly through the trunks of the hedgerow just above ground level (pleaching). The tree is then laid down at an angle of about 30 degrees to the ground (laying). The laid stems are held together by a system of stakes bound together by long thin flexible "binders" usually made of hazel. This holds the freshly laid hedge together; new shoots grow from the cuts allowing the hedge to support itself again (heathering).

Hedgelaying is a time consuming activity. Formerly, when labour was abundant on farms, this work was carried out during the quieter winter months. Due to modern farming methods and reliance on technology and machinery, current hedgelaying activities predominantly rely on the use of volunteers or occasionally paid professionals.

HAWCs uses the southern England style of hedgelaying where the trees are laid to both sides of the stakes and binders finish the top (as in the photo above).

Keeping ancient skills alive...

We mainly work as volunteers but do request a donation per metre laid to cover our modest costs and to enable us to donate to woodland conservation charities. Our latest donation was to help The Woodland Trust to reclaim Bisham Woods just south of Marlow, to restore it's ancient woodland and open it up for public access.

If you know of any local project that conserves or enhances the hedge and woodland resouces of the Wokingham and Bracknell area which would benefit from funds, do get in touch.


Need a hedge laying?

If you own a wood and/or hedgerow that requires work, contact us we may be able to help. We charge a nominal fee for our services to cover our running costs (insurance, tool purchase and maintenance, etc). 

 Tools

Billhook - The most distinctive tool of hedgelaying. It has a slightly curved/hooked blade used for many jobs such as cutting, splitting and chopping. One is shown in the photo on our "Come along" page.

Bow saw - Useful for cutting through unwanted trees and branches, blades are designed for living wood unlike a handsaw.

Axe -Used for chopping or pleaching very large trees.

Hook - Made from a tree with a branch (see photos opposite). Used for pulling out a tangled tree for laying.

Knocker-inner - Made from a large tree base. Used for banging in the stakes.

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