Hedge laying is an ancient art which involves creating a living fence to keep animals in/out. Nowadays, with cheap wire fencing, the skills required to do this are at risk of being lost.
The basic technique is to use axe or billhook to partially sever the stem of the tree so that it can be bent over. Come the spring the sap flows up through the branch and shoots grow off it.
Every region has a different style of hedge laying and most of what we do is Devon style. However, where there is no bank, we tend to use Midland style or occasionally South of England style. In Devon, hedge laying or pleaching is known as “steeping”.
A Devon hedge consists mainly of an earth bank, which may or may not be faced with stone. Where it is not, the bank can be repaired using turf. Once the bank has been repaired, the hedge is “steeped” horizontally across the top of the bank. Finally any remaining soil is cast up onto the bank to maintain the height. See the “bank” page for more on this.
Many Devon hedges are very very old and some are remnants of the ancient woodland that once covered the country. They are extremely valuable habitats for many plants, insects, birds and small mammals.