Queen Mother's Hedge
Well it was with trepidation that we ventured to Farnham Park on Wednesday 9th January to volunteer with ‘laying’ the Queen Mother’s Hedge.
This unwieldy mix of mainly hazel, but including some hawthorn, elder and large hornbeam trees was to be set about and tamed into a masterpiece of hedge laying. Although we possessed little knowledge of the art we were soon brought up to speed by the park ranger, Nick McFarlane, and the rest of the volunteers.
Through a process of clearing out deadwood and brambles the hedge soon starts to take shape. As we thinned out some of the larger stems of hazel we soon started the process of slicing the stems and bending them over, these are called pleachers. We used a tool called a billhook to make the cuts. Later visits, have seen the installation of stakes 4-5ft lengths of hazel that are driven into the ground using a podger or beadle. Finally the binders, long lengths of hazel, are woven into the top of the stakes to create the finished hedge.
The hedgerows of Britain were somewhat in decline in the 60s\70s as farmers were encouraged to remove them to create larger fields. However, there has been somewhat of a revival. As a boy I remember following my Father around various fields planting hedgerows. I recall being in awe of how many hundreds of small hedge plants could be put into the ground in one day. I have found the time in Farnham Park to be slightly nostalgic of my past but also a glimpse into the ecological future of hedges. So, if you feel that you need a new challenge or simply want to try something new or learn something that has long been in decline, hedge laying is for you!!!
David Pink February 2019