It’s my turn to say good bye to Gressenhall now. I’ve had a great 18 months and learnt many new skills. At the beginning of February this year myself, Lee and Mike entered a hedgelaying competition being held at Wimpole Home Farm (on the Wimpole Estate). We started around 8 am and had to finish an 8 metre section of hedge by 2 pm. This was a little daunting as Lee and I had not laid that amount of hedge in one day but we were up for the challenge with Mike. There were around 25 people taking part mostly working on their own but some in groups like us.
Hedges can be laid in many different styles depending on where you are in the country and local variation will come into that as well. The two styles being shown at the competition were Midland Bullock and South of England and each of these styles have developed over the years to cope with the climate of an area, the different farming practices and the trees and shrubs which grow in a hedge. There are more than 30 different styles recorded in the UK.
Laying a hedge is simply just one of many techniques used to manage and maintain hedge rows. If a hedge were to be left without any management it would eventually become a line of trees. Where farmers keep livestock a good hedge is essential as it provides shelter for the livestock and keeps them in the area you want them to be in. Also hedges are an important habitat for wildlife such as hedgehogs, bank voles, harvest mice, bats, robins, great and blue tits and invertebrates. Cattle and sheep can push through hedges however laying the hedge prevents this by laying the hedge at an angle and putting stakes and binding them together giving the hedge strength against such force. This type of management also tidies up an area along with encouraging the trees and shrubs to regenerate keeping the hedge bushy and healthy. Once the hedge is laid it can be good for up to 50 years before it needs to be laid again.
From the pictures you can see that hedge started off by looking quite open and tall whereas by the end it looked like it could keep livestock in.
We managed to finish our section of 8 metres in time and won the Hand Tools Class which we were very delighted with. It was a great experience and nice to be able to put into practice what I had been taught over my traineeship.
I have loved the hands on experiences which the traineeship has given me such as working with the animals on the farm. Also being able to go on courses such as mammal trapping and being able to see the small mammals such as mice and voles. It gives more meaning to all the conservation work which has been done on the farm and therefore these animals have a good habitat to thrive in which in turn will keep other mammals and birds such as our Barn Owls happy with the amount of food available to them.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a trainee and look forward to what the future will bring.
Heritage Landscape Management Trainee