What is hedgelaying?

Thursday 23rd July 2020

Hedgelaying in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
It’s important to lay your hedges in the winter

One often forgotten aspect of farming/land management is the old art of hedgelaying.

Hedgelaying in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
As the branches fill out in the spring, the hedge becomes thicker

A well-managed hedgerow is thick and bushy, not only a living fence to sheep and cattle but a much needed haven for wildlife. Left unmanaged, a hedgerow will eventually grow to become a line of trees.

There are more than thirty different styles of hedgelaying recorded across the UK and even more in Europe. Each style has been gradually developed over many years, because of the diverse farming practises seen across the UK, changing climate and different types of trees and shrubs that might grow in the hedge.

Hedgelaying in the Yeo Valley Organic Garden
A tidy finish!

So how’s it done? First the brambles need clearing out, along with any branches that are growing very far away from the hedgerow line. Then the stems need to be cut until they are a third of their original thickness. These stems are then bent over at an angle, secured with stakes and, in some styles, binders along the top. Once a hedge has been laid, regular trimming will keep it in good order for up to 50 years. A machine has yet to be found that can replicate the craft to good effect.

Hedgelaying is a time-consuming business  which is why it’s more popular these days to keep the hedges managed through cutting them and using wire fences underneath to keep livestock in the field.

Comments on “What is hedgelaying?”

  • Interesting and inspiring read. It’s not only a living work of art, it creates another area of food and shelter for our wildlife and it serves its purpose as rather naturally beautiful fence line. Hats off to all you hedgelayers!

    Karen on 23rd January 2021 at 8:44 am

  • My garden was getting quite shaded by wild damson shrubs. I bought a billhook and had a go at laying them. Not going to win any prizes but more light in the garden and fruit to pick at waist height!

    Andy on 22nd January 2021 at 1:50 pm

  • Always remember not wanting to go back to school after Christmas as could have been out with my Dad while he was ‘hedging ‘. Thanks.

    Judith Small on 22nd January 2021 at 8:09 am

  • Would love to learn how to lay a hedge (as well as dry stone walling). Practical and beautiful, good for wildlife and livestock – what’s not too like. A real craft.

    Harriet on 21st January 2021 at 8:41 pm

  • I’m part way through laying one of our hedges about 100m long in the Devon style, meaning the hedge was planted on top of a bank. Its a very enjoyable job and I’m learning fast. Burning up the calories too. Could do with winning some of your yog!

    Kerry on 21st January 2021 at 3:06 pm

  • Such a useful article. Thank you. I found your article very encouraging!
    We are trying our hands at hedgelaying around the edges of a wood we have bought and have had many positive comments from people, even though our attempts wouldn’t win us any competitions! But we hope it will be good for wildlife.
    Thank you for taking care of our planet, Yeo Valley Farm!
    Anne

    Anne on 21st January 2021 at 2:27 pm

  • I buy two large pots of Yeo Yoghurt every week and have done so for about 10 years. I enjoy everything about it and add it to my breakfast cereal and many other things. I saw the Country file prog and also Greg Wallace at the factory making Yoghurt both excellent and hopefully good for you. I do not save my tokens we live too far away in Suffolk to enjoy some of the benefits, I also use your butter every week. I went organic (as far as I am able) about 35 years ago. I grow my own veg and fruit, and my meat comes from an organic farm in Somerset Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into your farm and produce, it is absolutely appreciated.
    Joan, Suffolk

    Joan Girling on 21st January 2021 at 9:33 am

  • Great article and informative for kids.
    Hedges are so important for wildlife, I would say most large fields must include more hedges, how about length of hedging across parts of fields? This would also shelter crops from inclement wind and weather.

    M Rosevink on 21st January 2021 at 9:15 am

  • My Grandfather used to win competitions for hedge laying. Not so many farmers use it as it is a dying art. It should be encouraged.

    Annette on 21st January 2021 at 8:24 am

  • Really interesting, thanks for putting this on. I may give hedgelaying a go:)

    Caroline on 20th January 2021 at 9:25 pm

  • Brilliant thread, my late father in law did hedge laying most of his working life when he worked on a farm in Hinckley in Leicestershire.

    Anita on 20th January 2021 at 9:24 am

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