Last week former farmer and Coniston milkman David Johnston was kind enough to spend an afternoon with us on site, teaching us how to hedge lay correctly.
We worked on our oldest hedgerow, planted by Adam and I in 2001 when Adam had just moved in. I still remember the mud, the mud.
Now easily over 7 feet tall in places - and maintained carefully in the last few years by our sadly now gone gardener George Watson - it was just mature enough to start its career.
The laying was a slow but delicious experience, out in the winter sun. It needs various axes, billhooks and saws, the gist of it being to hack at ground level almost through the main stem of your hedging plant until you have what is called the 'pleacher'. You then carefully tidy the base of this up and lay it over to one side, tucking in its twiggy brash and staking it at intervals for extra cohesion. If you've ever waited patiently for a hedge to grow you'll guess how nerve-wracking for a beginner this surgery can be.
Townies may well be wondering why you grow a nice tall hedge only to slice it to ribbons and turn it into a tiny hedge? Well, traditionally this practice made a sound stock (thats animals)-proof barrier without needing stone or fencing materials. Clever huh? The near-horizontal plants are rejuvenated by the treatment, growing more vigorously as a result. In another 7 or so years, you repeat the process.
And we think it looks very cool too.
As part of Bryan & Laura Davies' The Wonderful North roadtrip / travelogue, last weekend saw a group of artists volunteer to plant 80 metres of native hedgerow in our paddy field enclosure. Guestroom (Maria & Ruth), Bryan & Laura, Jay Yung, Lisa, Alistair, Adam & me (from Grizedale Arts) planted nearly 400 mixed hazel, sloe, guelder rose, hawthorn, wild rose, beech, and holly - all to offset Bryan & Laura's petrol consumption on their trip.
The artists are all due to go to China on R & D with GA in the spring, and so this was also a bonding exercise for them, especially as they had to weather a night at Parkamoor farm.
Two more trees are due to be planted on the paddies as part of the same scheme, a native bird cherry and a Japanese weeping cherry to celebrate the relationship between Grizedale Arts and Toge village, who landscaped the paddies with us last spring as a continuation of the 'Seven Samurai' project.