The Rural Craft of Hedge Laying and its Ascendancy

A well laid hedge not only looks good, it also serves a practical purpose, that of maintaining habitat and keeping a valuable rural craft.

Hedge laying is a skill that is centuries old. The art of cutting the wood part way through, bending it over without breaking it and making sure it grows and stays alive. Sounds easy doesn’t it. But it definitely isn’t. Hedge layers have had to be taught and then gain experience, not something that you could learn overnight. Even today there are classes to learn how to lay a hedge.

After the second world war the art of hedge laying seriously declined due to a shortage of labour, the use of machines to cut hedges, wire fences and changes in agriculture putting more emphasis on production.

Due to a lack of maintenance hedges grew taller with gaps in them. By the 1960’s the hedges were dug out to make the fields larger so as to accommodate the use of larger machinery.

In 1978, realising that the art of hedge laying might be lost forever, three hedge layers-Fred Lightfoot, Clive Matthews and ValerieGreaves set up a national society that would enable the continuance of this valuable skill. Today this society, that has HRH Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, as it Patron trains and encourages the art of hedge laying by offering courses in hedge management, cutting, documentation and generally keeping alive the importance of good hedge laying.

Hedge Laying in Rutland is today as active and popular as it ever was

One name in this county springs immediately to mind-Geoff Sumner. Ask anyone connected to the hedge laying fraternity who is Geoff Sumner and they will tell you.

Geoff, who is now retired, has won over 100 competitions for hedge cutting and now judges competitions that are held all over the country. Geoff has even cut hedges on Prince Charles’ estate.

As we drive and travel around the countryside today we can see more and more laid hedges. Long may it ever be.




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