Friday, 14 November 2014

Hedgerow management

Earlier on this week I held a hedgerow management workshop for the farmers involved in the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area ( which is situated between Marlborough and Swindon in Wiltshire. 

The morning was hosted by John White of Overtown Farm, Wroughton, but kicked off in Overtown Manor where daughter Nancy provided a spacious room (+ Tea, Coffee & scrummy biscuits), enabling me to give a presentation all about hedges. (Incidentally, Nancy runs a high quality B & B, which if the home-made biscuits are anything to go by, will most definitely be worth a stay!! 

We then went out onto the farm to see first-hand different hedge cutters in action, finishing up with the Crème de la crème of hedgerow management – hedge laying.

We watched as a circular saw cut through some thick stems, bringing a tall hedge back down to a more manageable height. This is also a brilliant piece of kit for taking off overhanging branches that have become too much of a good thing.

A reciprocating knife was also on show and we were all mightily impressed with how neat a job it did on the hedge alongside a wood. Then onto the flail cutter, perhaps the most commonly used machine, again noting how well the SHARP blades cut through the growth leaving a clean cut, “A” shaped fashioned hedge – demonstrating that these machines used correctly, need not leave “battered and smashed” hedges in their wake.

Finally, we watched a true professional in the form of Guy Robins, who lays hedges from September through to the end of March. To many people, this looks such a brutal way to treat a hedge, but to return and see how it has grown back into a thick, stock proof, wildlife friendly hedge just one year later, is something that I never cease to marvel at. Also, did you know that there are some 30 odd different styles of hedge laying!

Despite getting rather wet and cold, I think everyone enjoyed the event and hopefully will now provide an even higher quality of hedge than they already do. My thanks to Jemma Batten (MDNIA farmer “wiper-in” and all-round brilliant organiser!) for getting people and machinery in the correct place!

One thing to note is that we held this meeting at this time of year, so that when land managers come to cut most of their hedges in January and February – which is the best time if possible – then they will already be fully up to speed!

Here are some pictures of the morning!

Circular saw in action

Here you can see the saw - it will carve through some hefty stems

The reciprocating cutter 

The Flail - if sharp and used on the correct size of growth - does a good job  

Guy in action - a wonderful skill

Just laid in the forefront - with last year's effort behind (already trimmed) 

The finished article - demonstrating the "Midland style" - used here
in Wiltshire because it produces a great hedge for keeping stock in! 

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