20 January 2008

Woollie -  Traditional Crafting

This weekend I learnt a new traditional craft - this one has nothing to do with fibre, wool or fabric - I was at Threave with the National Trust Conservation Volunteers doing a little hedge laying. 

(Pictures - from top left, clockwise - the trees before we start, the trees laid and staked, the hazel binders, Karl wielding an axe, the finished bound and staked hedge, tool sharpening)

Hedge laying is a traditional method of managing a hedgerow to create a natural, living, livestock barrier. It has been practised for hundreds of years, but as with many traditional countryside crafts it is being used less and less frequently as man-made materials take over. 

Hedge-laying involves a row of trees, each one cut individually, nearly all way through the trunk, close to the base, so that the tree can be laid at an angle of about 30 degrees to the ground, each laid one after the other and inter-woven with the previous one. These cut stems/trunks are called pleachers and where the trunk has been exposed to the elements new branches will grow vertically, creating an even more impenetrable barrier.

The row of pleachers are staked vertically every 30-50 cms to support the pleachers as they grow and then the hedge is topped with binders, which are used to hold the structure together. Both the stakes and binders are usually made from coppiced hazel which is great because it is usually straight and flexible. The binders are rolled together to create a beautifully woven top for the hedge.

A wide array of scary looking tools are used in hedge laying - bill hooks, saws and axes to name a few! 

(Pictures, from left to right: the tools - axe, loppers, one-handed saw, bill hook, saw; Dave with the binders; my laid trees - twice by mistake!; laid trees; Karl showing us how to weave in the branches; the finished fence; the stakes)

We were laying a row of hazel trees, which is perfect for creating livestock hedges because of the large thorns - great to work with if you want to look like a pin-cushion afterwards! I even got one thorn stuck in my head and it drew blood - ouch!!

Just in case the other pictures don't appear, hopefully these ones, inserted in a more traditional manner will, to give you some idea of what we were doing!

A well maintained hedge, which is trimmed and laid regularly can last for over 100 years. It was certainly a privilege to learn about this craft (thank you Karl and Dave) and hopefully we will get to use the skills again in the future - our hedge will look perfect in about 8 years!!


Bethany Hissong said...

This was really fascinating! We have a property line that we'd like to "fence in" with something natural and this just gave me more ideas! Part of our property was lined with poisen ivy! My husband cut it down this winter so we need to replace those spaces. I don't know if I can wait 8 years for it to fill in, but it would be wonderful!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like such a great experince!! The photos dont seem to be coming up on my compuer though =( Silly puter!

Tracy said...

That is amazing! And you've learnt it! I've read a lot in Country Living magazine about this craft and find it fascinating. We don't have such things here in Norway. Looking forward to seeing pics of your growing hedge! Happy week ((HUGS))

j said...

hope you didn't get too badly scraped and stuck. well, that's amazing.

I knew that in England hedgerows were/are used as barriers- and the age of the hedgerow can be deduced- one way is by the varied plant life. I thought it was fascinating, but it's not easy to come by books on hedgerows in Britain. This post is great. This blog is great- I never know what you'll be doing next, but it's always interesting.

This past weekend, I ordered a book :
From the Ends of the Earth: Passionate Plant Collectors Remembered in a Cornish Garden by Christian Lamb, a gardener in Cornwall. It's about plant history, their discovery, who brought them back to England. Can't wait until it comes in.

thanks for the links

Manoute said...

Thanks for the pictures, they were not coming up before. Very interesting. I didn't know this craft. You must have been exhausted after that ! See you Wednesday.

Felicia said...

I enjoying reading about about the process :)

Charlie P said...

Wow. When you see a hedge you never think "I wonder when that was laid and who laid it...and how?" but now I will! That was very interesting, I'm tempted to look into Conservation- it's a good way to get outdoors more. Hope your head has stopped bleeding!