Along with producing our tasty lamb at Cefn Fedw Ganol much of the year is taken up with contracting, specifically hedge laying and fencing. I specialise in traditional hedge laying which fits in to the farm ethos of using low intensity methods and minimal chemical and medicinal inputs. I have been hedge laying for over 30 years and this includes a, still standing, 24 yr old World Record for laying 307m of hedge in 12 hours, completed with Lewis Stephens.
While the fencing work is a year-long job, the hedging is restricted by a number of regulations and can only take place between September and March. These are related to the age, length and situation of a particular hedge. Over 70% of the UK’s hedges are deemed to be ‘important’ and are under restrictions. There are various stewardship schemes and grants that can assist with funding hedge laying, including small business grants and the Glastir scheme. However even with these schemes I have found that over the last few years we are down from 10,000m per year to only 5000m per year. I cover approximately a 50 mile radius with the contracting work.
Hedging is a traditional method of providing a fence or boundary to a field. There are various styles of hedge laying based on the regions around the UK. I use the Brecknockshire style with either crop & pleach or stake & pleach. When we are laying a hedge, we are looking to make it livestock proof and it also gives a wide range of wild life and environment to live, feed, nest and travel. This includes birds, mammals and insects.
The main trees used, in our area, in traditional hedge-laying are hazel, hawthorn, ash, birch, red cherry, blackthorn and mountain ash. The aim is to regenerate the hedge, bringing new to the hedge, make it stock proof, looking good and providing a great habitat for the wildlife. Once relayed a hedge should last 15-20 years, with regular trimming, before it needs relaying again.
It is so important to continue this tradition of hedge laying as it is environmentally friendly, encourages wildlife and provides a lovely landscape to look at.