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Posted: Monday 30th January 2017 by LowerAireValley

Hedgelaying at Townclose Hills - Elspeth RobinsonHedgelaying at Townclose Hills - Elspeth Robinson

I expect there will be a few people suffering with aches and pains this morning, especially those of us that have been hedge-laying at Townclose Hills this week. For them that are wondering what I am on about reading this you could be regretting missing out on a great couple of days volunteering.

The group usually work on the hedges at this site on a regular, seasonal basis but on this latest job the task involved a relatively younger and 'single bushed' hedge-row. This meant that it was particularly more suited for beginners and for Elspeth and myself to be able to demonstrate the techniques and principles of the 'art'. However the job entails much hard work and concentration for the novice to achieve a nicely laid 'pleacher' but I must say that our own Lower Aire Valley Volunteer group on Tuesday took to it within a very short time and were successful in producing some very respectable results. Their efforts paid dividends for us as a large amount of preparatory work speeded things up for the Saturday when Elspeth ran a Hedge-Laying Course for members of the public who had responded to the 'Wild Workshop' programme of events on the YWT web pages and magazine.

The Saturday started very grey and damp which eventually turned to rain but we all got stuck-in and got to grips with some laying. The hedge was ideal for being managed in the Midlands Style, where the cut stems (pleachers) are laid over at 30-40degrees and woven through driven stakes at roughly half metre spacing. This is then finished by binding the stakes together with hazel weavers above the desired finished top of the hedge, roughly one and a bit metres high. Once the binders are added by further weaving in a method known as Southern Counties style it produces a very strong support structure resulting in what you could say is a stock proof barrier with the exception of lambs.

Both Elspeth and I were extremely proud of the finished product as over the two days our group and the paying guests between them produced a fine example of a variation of a Midlands style laid hedge with Southern Counties type bindings. Considering that nearly all of the volunteer workforce were beginners and complete strangers to this work I was proud of their efforts and feel sure that this will get the same reaction from Elspeth as the finished job, although only some 20 odd metres in entirety would not shame any budding novice who intended to progress to a higher tradesman qualification.

We still have a lot of hedge unfinished but here we’re up against it as with the strange weather conditions the hawthorn is already starting to leaf and the hazel in some of the surrounding hedges has produced fresh cat-kins. This may cause us to have to stop laying earlier as when the tree sap starts to rise you don't want to cut as this can result in shocking the stems and sometimes killing them all together.

So perhaps we will be able to get some more hedge completed next month just in time. But if you want to get involved in improving species rich habitats that give our wildlife the 'corridors' they depend upon for food, shelter and a safe haven for raising their young, why not come and give it a try?

If you like the sound of this and its wetted your appetite for a bit of wildlife conservation work then feel free to come give it a go with us at LAV supporter group. Details can be found on YWT web site or by contacting Elspeth Robinson.

Looking forward to meeting you,

Pete.

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