Hedge laying course revives Iron Age craft

Hedge laying at Hazel Copse Farm in Beaulieu

Published Monday 11 March 2013

Interest in the traditional craft of hedge laying has been revived thanks to a free course run by the New Forest Land Advice Service.

A group of Commoners and land owners have been taught how to enhance their boundaries using techniques dating back thousands of years to the Iron Age – ensuring hedgerows are retained as a valuable feature in the landscape.

Well maintained hedges are functional and practical, acting as a stock proof barrier on its own or in combination with fencing.  

The hedges are also crucial habitats for native plants and wildlife such as nesting birds, dormice, hedgehogs and many insects. They are also corridors for animals to move across fields and between woodland, whilst bats use them as road maps for navigation.

The New Forest Land Advice Service brought in professional hedge layer Andrew Birnie and organised two free courses in February and March thanks to funding from the Sustainable Development Fund through the New Forest National Park Authority.

At Hazel Copse Farm in Beaulieu, 20 volunteers including a new generation of Commoners laid 70 metres of hedge in a day.

Robert Bridle, 17, a Commoner from the Minstead area, said: ‘I’ve taken the skills I’ve learned on the course to lay hedges on my own holding. It’s good for the land and wildlife and to maintain the character of the New Forest.’

Land Advice Service Advisor Rhys Morgan said: ‘The response to the course has been very enthusiastic. It’s lovely to think that a tradition going back thousands of years to the Iron Age, or beyond, is still being used today.’

Hedges are laid over the winter when vegetation is at its thinnest and to avoid the bird breeding season from 1 March to 31 August. Typically hedges should be laid every seven to 10 years in order to ensure they stay thick and bushy.

Further hedge laying courses will be held again from the autumn. A small charge is likely next time.

If you’re interested in joining the course, contact Rhys Morgan on 01590 646688 or email rhys.morgan@nflandadvice.org.uk. You can also find out more at www.nflandadvice.org.uk.

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 300 businesses.

The service offers:

  • A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley
  • Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups
  • Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area
  • A small grant scheme which can support capital works which benefit the landscape, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email enquiries@nfladvice.org.uk.

About the New Forest National Park Authority
Protect - Enjoy - Prosper
The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Media Contact:
Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk


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