Quick set ‘living hedge’ laying is a rural skill that has been practiced for many centuries. By laying a hedge you are creating something that is not only living, but you are also encouraging new growth. By maintaining a living hedge, it is more sustainable and easier than replacing it.
Hedges were traditionally laid to keep animals out, rather than keep them in. You would be looking to protect your crops from being eaten by animals.
A quick hedge is a way of making a stock proof barrier around an area, where growing a barrier is very practical. When a tree is planted and grows up, you end up with a lot of growth at the top and gaps at the bottom. So periodically you start by cutting the tree to remove the side branches from each stem. Then you cut through the stem, which is also known as a pleacher, cutting it at an angle to bend over the branches and then lay down the length of the hedge. Because you are damaging the bottom you are encouraging growth to bush up and fill up the gaps.
You add strength to your hedge by using a series of upright stakes, which are traditionally a forearm width apart. We use around two stakes per pace of hedge, which we have previously collected from coppicing around the Museum grounds. You then wind the pleachers around the stakes to hold them in place
This process would be re-done around every 10 years, but it is practical to do it when needed. Jon Roberts, Rural Life Interpreter and his team are busy working on the hedge at the back of Bayleaf Orchard. Working along the hedge they hope to complete at least half of the hedgerow this season.
Another type of hedge is a dead hedge, which is more like a traditional type of fencing. The dead hedge is made from stakes and brushwood that you can collect from around your land whilst coppicing. The brushwood is then woven in and out of the fence. It does not last as long as a quick set hedge but if you are looking to plant a hedge, it makes a great barrier of protection from being eaten from animals.
You can see the rural life interpreters in action around the Museum, but activity can vary depending on weather and other needs around the 40 acres site.