Midland laid hedge

Midland style laid hedge

On Saturday February 4th over twenty hedge layers from as far away as Kent came to take part in the annual hedge laying competition at Wimpole. Half of the contestants were from Cambridgeshire which is always good to see.

Looking west towards the South of England hedge layers

Looking west towards the South of England style hedge layers

Looking East towards the Midland style hedge layers

Looking east towards the Midland style hedge layers

The hedge chosen was at Rectory Farm and had been destined for this year’s National Hedgelaying Competition but, alas, it could not be held here so, luckily for our local competition, we had some excellent hedge to lay.

David Owen comtemplating what to do!

David Owen contemplating what to do!

David Owen et al looked a bit perplexed… what to do?! where to start?! Their team was the only one to use only hand tools. Below is a small gallery of the contestants making headway.


Making headway

Getting the job done

By early afternoon most hedge layers had laid the bleachers and were starting to place the stakes and weave in the bindings, some looking very pleased with themselves!

Getting the job done

Getting the job done

Some of the rogues!!!!

Some of the rogues!!!!

Below is another gallery of some of the contestants finishing off their section of hedge

Hard at work Midland style

Hard at work Midland style

There were two styles of hedge: Midland, which has no brash on one side, and South of England which has brash both sides. The former is very common in central England and is used when there is pasture one side (brash side) and arable land the other (no brash side). The latter is used predominately in the south east of England where there are grazing sheep and other livestock both sides. Below are a few photos of both styles


Graham Teece hard at work

Graham Teece hard at work

So what style is used in the east of England? I have no idea as there is little evidence of the styles used in the historical records but the hedges at Wimpole have certainly been laid since the mid-eighteenth century as indicated in farm tenancy in 1766 and later nineteenth century records.

1766 ‘The said Richard Barton excepts and reserves to the use of the said Earl as well  all timber and timber like trees as pollards and all other trees and the tops and lops thereof and also all hedges, bushes and underwood growing and being or to grow and be upon the premises. Never the less the said Joseph Custerson shall be allowed wood in the rough sufficient for his own use upon the premises for hedgeboot, plowboot and cartboot (wheels excepted) as also for cow racks and hurdles for sheepfold if wanted and provided such and so much wood be growing on the premises, the said wood to be assigned and set out by the steward of the said Earl for the time being and not also taken and to be used only in the business of the said farm – and when it shall happen that the said Joseph Custerson shall be desirous (with leave obtained) to plash any quick hedge or cut down border or coppice of bushes or underwood for fencing or other purposes he shall give at least ten days notice thereof to the steward of the said Earl for the time being in order to his marking or setting out such young trees there as shall be thought likely to become timber and on plashing such hedge or cutting up such  border or copse of bushes or underwood he the said Joseph Custerson shall well scour out the ditch there and browboard the quick and set a backhedge thereto as he shall likewise do to any such border or copse of bushes and underwood or use some other proper and effectual means to preserve the same and the young trees there from the bite of cattle or other damage.’

The Midland style winning hedge

The Midland style winning hedge

Even cutting the stakes the old fashioned way

Even cutting the stakes the old-fashioned way

The clear winner of the Midland style was Graham Teece and Roger Taylor was second but it was a hard choice for third position and eventually I decided to give it to the David Owen team that had only used hand tools.

Tim Radford making the final adjustments

Tim Radford making the final adjustments

The winners South of England hedge

The winner’s South of England hedge

Last year Tim Radford lost out because I ferreted around in the bottom of his hedge as I had smelt a rat… indeed I was rewarded for my diligence in finding a pleacher that had broken off the stool, needless to say he didn’t come first. This year he drew a poor cant which made me think he wouldn’t be able to win this year either! However, as it turned out, he back laid a section to cover a gap to produce a very even hedge and the clincher was his excellent stake and binding – straight as a die and bound to perfection- so he was the clear winner of the South of England style. Tony Gallow was second and again third place was hard fought for – Terry, Frank and Roy’s hedges all stood out and it was hard to choose which one would take third prize… in the end  Roy’s hedge with its straighter staking and binding narrowly pipped the other two.

With perfect staking and binding

With perfect staking and binding

The photo to the left is Tim Radford’s most excellent stake and binding; nobody in all the years we have held the local hedge laying competition at Wimpole has been able to out do Tim’s ability to produce such straight staking and binding.

Time for lunch which was cooked by Olga Damant with bread rolls produced by the baker Graham Damant. As always liquid refreshment was of the beer kind. This year the stew was made from muntjac, rabbit and some most excellent pheasants kindly donated by Barrie the gamekeeper, I think they were Bazanty pheasants.








About Sadeik

You may ask why "Sadeik" well it means friend in arabic. Worked in Jordan a lot doing tree surgery you see. I have worked in forestry since I left school with a two years in Telecom. Went back to forestry and tree surgery as it may not have paid as much but was far more interesting and dangerous. Spent a lot of years mountaineering, caving and canoeing too. At 29 I went to Bangor University to study Forestry and soil science then did an MSc in Water engineering all very interesting. By a quirk of fate in 1995 ended up helping sort out the woodland and park at Wimpole, funny thing was then I only intended to stay six months or so, but 18 years later I'm still here learning all the time. That's the best bit, if I wasn't able to learn something new every year I would not have stayed and as you get older you realise that the grass is not so green in the next field after all. In fact my patch is getting greener while much of the rest is getting browner.
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6 Responses to The Wimpole Estate 2017 Hedgelaying Competition

  1. graemeu says:

    Simon, a technical question seeking clarity. I’ve never seen a pleached hedge so have only had old books to refer to. They show the cut stems being twisted through 90deg to lay them, but your photos (well it isn’t clear) seem to show them simply being laid over backward (from the cut). Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. grahamteece says:

    A bit late to the fray….nowt new there. Sometimes quick hedges are very fluted at the base and may not have enough wood at the bottom to lay the way you want them to go. As Simon has said; you look for the flattest part and cut to that. It may not be the direction you want the pleacher to go but you cut a longer strap ie the part of the stem that bends at the base. This enables you to twist it and bring it into line. Hope that makes sense! Modern Midland style is very upright compared to years ago where it was laid off the centre line a fair way. It builds a far better hedge in these times when laying is not on a short rotation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • graemeu says:

      Thanks Graham,
      Quick hedge? I presume you mean: plant – grow – clip/flail – voila! fine for a windbreak but with stock it ends up full of tunnels.
      The bit about modern Midland being more upright – I think you mean the whole thing leant over to one side in which case toward the brush side? Or is it the pleaches don’t go as low to the ground?

      Liked by 1 person

      • grahamteece says:

        Sorry; quick = quickthorn. Name given to young thorns for hedge planting. They can have a tendency to a fluted base occasionally and to produce twisted growth. It’s often best to let your new hedge grow to about ten feet and then cut it down to four feet high. They produce wonderful straight growth which makes a good laid hedge.

        Yes. Laid off to brush side. The more upright you lay it the longer it will remain stockproof. Going back some years they were laid well off but it didn’t matter then because they’d be on a rotation of about seven years. There’s a lot more work involved in building upright hedges because all the pleachers are worked in front of the stakes….or should be.

        Liked by 1 person

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