Hedging, with pipe
July 9, 2024 8:10 PM   Subscribe

How to lay a hedge. Hedgelaying is a traditional method for creating/renovating hedges. More than just farm and livestock boundaries, they are critical ecosystems in their own right. Watch more here and here (with more history and details, and egg sandwiches). First link via tywkiwdbi

Previously, kind of, with genius title.
posted by Gorgik (11 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I was surprised (but not disappointed) that this was legit and rather than being something like The Exciting of Trains, it's the sort of thing that that's a parody of.
posted by aubilenon at 8:43 PM on July 9

“nut-gobbling pests” would be a good user name.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:23 PM on July 9

On at least one occasion the narrator referred to the hedger's assistant as a "land girl", a term unfamiliar to me. Looking up its meaning and origin lead me down the rabbit hole of the UK Women's Land Army. IWM also has an interesting introduction to the subject: What was the Women's Land Army?
posted by RichardP at 9:28 PM on July 9 [4 favorites]

Hedges are very cool and it's great to see their value being recognised. In New Zealand, apart from and more so than using hedges to contain herds, they are used to create shelter belts to protect crops from the windy climate. These are amazing to see as you drive around - well-tended, they are unbelievably narrow but impossibly tall.
posted by dg at 10:00 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

Also, that previously thread leads to some ... odd ... places.
posted by dg at 10:52 PM on July 9

Cool post Gorgik, I follow two hedge layers Richard Negus (his website), he also tweets @TrooperSnooks, and Copsework@copseworker (he's in the next village over from where I was born) so is interesting to chat to. Both are very into promoting their craft online. My grandfather used to do this work - and was still handy with a billhook when he was 80.

dg - I would love if hedge-laying caught on here, but it's a skill and culture that once lost is hard to teach. Also very hard to buy quality hand tools here.

I sometimes design the shelterbelts dg mentions, although I only get involved if someone wants some ecological function and/or an aesthetic aspect. Much of the South Island experiences a harsh hot fohn wind and typically the 'beautiful view' of the hills is blocked by the necessity of a shelter belt. In the far south we are blasted by icy, salty wind from Antarctica which severely narrows the range of what trees will grow.
posted by unearthed at 12:50 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]

Nearly 20 years ago, we planted 300m of "neighbour-belt" - like shelter-belt but against the casual / wilful ingress of the neighbour's stock. Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, blackthorn Prunus spinosa and hazel Corylus avellana random in a 7:2:1 ratio. We also included some standards of ash Fraxinus excelsior rowan Sorbus aucuparia and wild cherry Prunus avium. Fine and dandy, but I regret following then-best advice of a) planting the hedge through a grass-suppressing woven black plastic which will be there till the end of history b) fronting the hedge with an own-stock-proof sheep-wire fence which made it very difficult to get in and plash the hedge as it grew up. Ho hum, but it looks lovely in the spring, and is habitat for other creatures, with and without backbones.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:11 AM on July 10 [6 favorites]

I went through a phase during the pandemic of watching many of the UK living history documentaries, and I always enjoyed the included hedge-laying. Hard work, but lovely when grown up.
posted by tavella at 7:59 AM on July 10

I did a couple of grad school papers on hedges and found some useful stuff* but that was several laptops ago…. theoretically I’ve preserved at least the bibliography…

* IIRC they are most useful in agriculture that isn’t water-limited. You can deal with light and airflow and nutrient competition by species choice and alignment, but those woody roots pull water really well.
posted by clew at 10:04 AM on July 10

As well as the two excellent tweeters mentioned by unearthed (both of whom I already follow), I'll add one more: Megan @FavColour_Green is a great communicator and very keen on hedge-laying. See for example https://x.com/FavColour_Green/status/1718191961356775734 or https://x.com/FavColour_Green/status/1721200515386647006.
posted by vincebowdren at 10:15 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]

(contains content warning ...)

I remember my brief time hedging for Scottish Conservation Projects and National Trust for Scotland Conservation Volunteers. What I mostly remember was the advice to have two hot baths a week apart after finishing hedging. The first one helps get all the smaller thorns out of your legs and arms. The second one --- and Content Warning: the squeamish should stop reading here --- allows you to pop the truly monstrous spines from their protective abscesses in your skin. One of the species of hedging shrubs has a helpful tendency of creating abscesses round its spines, and apart from a temporary scar, they heal up nicely. Finding and removing these thorns held a certain grim fascination, as each one seemed impossibly longer than the last.

The other fun thing about hedging is that you get to use tools that combine heavy with sharp, operated close to your hands and face.
posted by scruss at 12:16 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]

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