Rural Crafts in the Rain - Updated November 16th 2015
Those travellers along Hall Lane, at least those who weren't driving too fast to notice, may have observed a troop of intrepid choppers attacking the Hedge alongside Plash Lane, the field track that runs north from Ivy Cottage to Stapleys Farm.
This wasn't another case of rural vandalism, The National Park Authority had organised a hedge laying course for those who wished to learn the technique required to make a hedge stock proof without the use of barbed wire, post and rail, electric fencing or a mixture of the aforementioned held together by bale string.
It should be noted the hedge they decided would be most suitable for their requirements was actually outside the boundary of the South Downs Park as the boundary runs along the south side of Hall Lane until it reaches the houses in Upper Farringdon but, as the selected hedge was replanted about 10 years ago, (by the Late Donald Bone and Yours Truly) it was in a ideal stage of growth, with stems still flexible enough for laying.
There was a proper photographer on site to record the activity for posterity (Unlike the 'Biz' photographer she would probably have noticed the water droplet on the lens) on a very gloomy day that was soon to send driving rain across the site.
The technique requires a partial cut near the base of the main trunk to lay the individual stems* at an angle where they are temporarily retained by upright posts, in this case Hazel stems, which are usually secured at the top with Heathers, sometimes called Etherings, which are usually thin stems of coppiced Hazel stems, woven along the top of the posts to hold them securely until the hedge puts up new growth and binds everything together.
*(If you want to impress people as we approach the party season the stems of the hedgerow are known as Pleachers)
The image on the right shows before and after although the Heathers have not yet been woven in.
This hedge was planted in two rows so in this case the upright posts are driven in between them, sometimes the laid stems are woven through the uprights to make the newly laid hedge more stable and secure.
Once the hedge has grown it is almost impossible for stock (or enthusiastic Spaniels) to squeeze through and if regularly trimmed it will remain stock proof for many years.
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