Must follow @westcountry_hedgelayer

Skilled hedgelayers can ascend a simple boundary hedge into high art, Paul Lamb is such a craftsman.

Hedgelaying is a country craft, practised for centuries. Although, the original aim was simply to retain animal stock in the fields, but a well laid hedge is a thing of beauty.

When laying a hedge, the stems are cut near the base – not right through, and ‘laid’ over sideways along the length of the hedge. The stems remain attached to the roots by a ‘heel’ which keeps on growing, sending new thorny shoots. Working them in this manner, keep hedges rejuvenated and with cyclical relaying, hedges can keep growing for hundreds of years. Importantly, doing away without the need for barbed wire fences to keep stock safely. Managed hedged often boast an impressive diversity of species such as hazel, guelder-rose, spindle and crab apple.

The common practice of mechanically topping and trimming hedges requires valuable fossil fuels and degrades habitats for wildlife. For safety, hedges alongside highways must of course be trimmed, but the probably tens of thousands of kilometres of internal hedges, need not be so aggressively trimmed. Too often, the flails that are blunt, which just abrades the wood, resulting in ragged cuts leaving the hedge susceptible to disease and degradation. In some cases, if very aggressively trimmed, the woody thorny plants do not survive, destroying vital habitats and allowing brambles and bracken to invade.

Thankfully, there is renewed and growing interest in hedge conservation and the magical craft of hedgelaying. Paul Lamb‘s instagram provides a wonderful insight into this ancient craft.