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Kentish Hedge Laying

Hedge laying (or hedgelaying according to some sources) is a country technique used traditionally in the UK with many various styles depending on the area of Britain. Hedge laying is the process of bending and part cutting, which is know as pleaching, through the stems of hedgerow species near to the ground level and bending the stems without them getting broken so they can grow horizontally instead and then be interwoven. The first ever recorded description of hedgelaying is from the ancient Romans when Julius Caesar describes how his army was set back by thick woven hedges during the Battle of the Sabis in Belgium. Hedgelaying over time developed as a way of making sure that animals were contained securely in fields, and nowadays hedges are laid to maintain habitat, and because laid hedges look great.

The theory of laying a hedge is quite simple but as with many things, in practice it is much harder. The aim of hedge laying is to reduce the thickness of the upright stems in the hedgerow by cutting away the wood on one side of them annd in line with the direction the hedge is planted in, then each remaining stem is laid down horizontally, along the hedge. These stems are called a pleacher or pleach. Some bark and sapwood must be left connected to the roots to keep the pleacher alive. The angle of the pleacher affects the build of a hedge. Hedges aremade to heights depending on what is their purpose and the height of the trimmed stool, otherwise known as the stobbin, is is important becaus that's where the strong new growth comes from. The pleachers will eventually die off, but by then a new stem ought to have grown up from ground level and this takes about fifteen years or so, and after the hedgelaying can be done again. You can trim the hedges for years after hedge laying before doing it over again.

Smaller shoots are known as brash. This is partly removed and partly woven in to strengthen and thicken the hedge.

Stakes are placed along the hedge at regular gaps apart and these strengthen it further then even more strengthening by binding them with hazel "heatherings" around the tops of the stakes, then cutting off the tops at the same height and angle.

Traditionally the hedgelayers used a billhook and an axe to work with, but now most hedgelayers much prefer to use a chainsaw.