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Hedgelaying

Hedgelaying is the art of cutting a stem partly through so that it will both bend without breaking and continue to grow. This has been the traditional way of managing hedges throughout much of England and Wales to contain livestock such as sheep and cows for at least the last 500 years. Esteemed woodland ecologist Oliver Rackham estimated that over 200,000 miles of hedge were planted between 1750 and 1850 and that by 1946 there were 500,000 miles of hedgerow in England. This figure fell dramatically to an estimated 236,000 miles by 1993 with many hedgerows being ‘grubbed out’ to create larger fields.

Thanks in part to our better understanding of the aesthetic and ecological importance of hedgerows within the landscape their decline slowed towards the end of the 20th century. Reassuringly, today new hedge planting out-paces hedgerow loss.

In line with the upturn in new hedgerow  planting, the craft of hedgelaying saw a revival in the late 20th century. Amateur hedgelayers and a small but growing number of professionals kept the craft alive and now find their services in demand as landowners realise the aesthetic and historic value of a real laid hedge.

Hedges are laid in a variety of regional styles. The Isle of Wight has its own style, which is now very rarely practised. The Island does however maintain an annual hedgelaying competition which attracts entrants from across the Island and the south of England. More information on the competition, the Isle of Wight style and the history of hedgelaying more generally can be found at the IW Hedgelaying Group website.

Search our Directory to see which of our members can help you with hedgelaying.