Ashridge Nurseries was proud to sponsor the Blackmore Vale Hedge-laying Competition the weekend before last.
Amazingly the weather improved and was generally sunny, but the ground was incredibly wet. And you know what - the soil will remain at the very least moist for probably the next two or three months, so you'll be able to plant bareroot hedging and trees well into April.
You can tell it's muddy as our banner got splattered by a quad-bike
The Young Farmers were out in force, learning the skills of hedge laying. It requires a lot of effort and a great deal of skill to learn how to lay a hedge. There were some professional hedge layers competing against each other, three judges, some experts who have been laying hedges for 40 years or more and some novices tackling some tricky hedges.
Young Farmers getting stuck in
Having spoken to the judges the criteria for laying a hedge are threefold – firstly the quality and cleanness of the cuts, secondly the new hedge being stock proof and thirdly the neatness of the site and the debris. Initially it’s hard work getting all the brambles out of the hedge, any barbed wire and dead wood. Then selecting the best hedging that is to be used for laying and making it as neat and tidy as possible in the Dorset style.
One of the professionals getting to grips with his section of hedge with a chainsaw
There are many different styles of hedge laying. Each style has been developed over many years to cope with the climate of the area, different farming practices and the type of trees and shrubs that grow in the hedge.
This competition was based on the Dorset style, the hedge is laid on top of a bank, tightly woven within its own hedging and secured using bonds (thin sticks). Other regional styles include Derbyshire, Lancashire, Midland Bullock (more robust for large farm animals such as cattle and horses) and North Somerset that all use stakes to weave the cut stems (called pleachers) in and out of. Yorkshire style is based on an arable/sheep rotation and is quite thin, as animals would not be in those fields while growing crops in the field for a few years. Devon style is also with a hedge on top of a bank but with a densely packed brush at the top.
Having greeted several people that I recognised from my hedge-laying efforts with my son last year, it’s always gratifying to hear how positive they all are about Ashridge Nurseries. Most of them having bought hedging from us over the years, and one of the professionals, Rob, having bought some plum trees from us.
The usual conversation came up about the weather – it was sunny today with the odd spattering of rain, but the ground underfoot was absolutely soaking. The general attitude to planting was that it was too wet at the moment and that they were happy to wait and plant in the next month or so. This year it’s been so wet that people were confident about planting well into April. Although we’re quite far south, we know that planting in the north of England and Scotland will continue until May.
We have a cold store at Ashridge Nurseries which keeps the bareroot plants in dormancy and means that you can plant when the soil is a little warmer and quite often gives your plants the perfect conditions they need to thrive.
The hedging was a mixture of hawthorn, blackthorn and some elder and was not easy to manage, as the hedge had not been touched for at least 10 years. I was particularly impressed by the Young Farmers, who needed some guidance but were just willing to try, get on with it and do their best. And they will only get better and better each time they do it.
Nearly there after about 4 hours of hard work
It’s a real pleasure being part of a day in the countryside, seeing people showing their determination and skills and how those young and older could create neatness out of chaos.
Congratulations to all those who participated, here’s to next year.