Hedgerows are an essential part of Britain's landscape; they provide habitats and wildlife corridors for species of bird, insect and small mammal, create windbreaks to reduce soil erosion, and provide shelter, forage and boundaries to livestock and farmers. 

But up to half of England's hedgerows have been lost since the end of the Second World War, through government-endorsed removal to expand fields for larger machinery and greater food productivity, or through neglect (1).

We are fortunate at Trill Farm that most of our hedges were not pulled out during this period, but they do require maintenance to stop them from growing up into lines of trees with little shelter for nesting birds, and large gaps to allow livestock through.

Many farmers use flails to cut back growth each year, which although quick and efficient, can be bad for wildlife including some species of rare moth and butterfly whose eggs and caterpillars overwinter on shoots and twigs (2).

Sometimes, the old methods are the best. Hedge laying is time consuming and hard work. We use hand tools to carefully chop through part but not all of a growing stake, laying it down with a section of bark and wood connecting it to its roots for water and nutrients. The branch is carefully woven in to other branches, allowing it to continue to grow and creating a denser hedge.

Fortunately, the craft of hedge laying is enjoying a revival, with people like Jeremy Weiss (@properedges) running training through the Devon Rural Skills Trust. He will be here at Trill laying one of our hedges on 16th-17th February, and passing on his skills to anyone who wishes to join him.

Visit our website to find out more and to book your place.

(1) https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/advice/conservation-land-management-advice/farm-hedges/history-of-hedgerows/

(2) https://www.buglife.org.uk/advice-and-publications/advice-on-managing-bap-habitats/ancient-and-species-rich-hedgerows