A thoroughly enjoyable and successful task at the Millennium Green in North Hykeham, a site we last visited in 2011. The site is now managed by Hill Holt Wood, in conjunction with North Kesteven District Council, and the day was overseen by Hill Holt Wood's Countryside Ranger, John.
Our work for the day was hedgelaying and dead hedging. There were 12 of us, and we were delighted that several new volunteers joined us to help with the task. So, what are hedgelaying and dead hedging?
Over time hedges can grow tall and a bit straggly, so they are not stockproof, as gaps open up at the bottom of the hedge, and they no longer provide a good, dense habitat for wildlife. Laying the hedge – cutting each stem almost through to leave a thin hinge of bark and living material, then laying it down at approximately 45 degrees - reduces its height and encourages new strong shoots to grow from the laid stems, to create a thick hedge again. The laid 'pleachers' are supported by stakes, then the hedge is sometimes finished off with 'bindings' woven in and out of the stakes.
In dead hedging, leafy material cut from trees or hedges, commonly known as brash, is packed and woven between stakes to create an instant ‘hedge’. This makes a great habitat for wildlife and although a dead hedge breaks down over time, it is easy to build it up again.
Our task was to lay part of a hawthorn hedge running along one of the boundaries of the site, and to use the brash from cutting off its side branches to create a dead hedge along a nearby boundary fence. A few of us had some hedgelaying experience but others had none, so first John gave us an introduction to the site and then did a hedgelaying demonstration to make sure we all knew what to do and how to do it safely.
And then we got started. Stakes were needed for both hedges; John had cut plenty for us but they needed pointing – sharpening at one end so they were easier to knock into the ground. Three of us got busy with that – and did an excellent job – while the rest of us split into two groups for the hedge work. Initially those with some hedgelaying knowledge made a start on the living hedge, as they could get on straight away, and everyone else, after a quick ‘how to build a dead hedge’ introduction, got going with that project.
This got everyone working – and helped us to warm up too, as the first part of the morning was rather chilly. Throughout the rest of the morning, John gave dedicated training and assistance to our hedgelaying ‘newbies’, so that by lunchtime everyone who wanted to had the skills to help with the hedgelaying.
By the end of the day we had laid several metres of the hawthorn hedge and had created a lovely dead hedge and we all felt very pleased with ourselves!
Huge thanks to my co-leader, Steve, whose help before and on the task contributed to a successful day.
In an email the next day, John said ‘thank you to your group collectively for the great work that they did yesterday at Millennium Green’.
We hope it isn’t 12 years before we do another task there.