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.


Photo credit: Studio Whisk

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!

    Anonymous 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

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