A small group of conservation enthusiasts met on Sunday 7th March 2020, with Simon Mockford, the South Downs National Park Ranger for the Walberton and Binsted area for an introduction on hedgelaying.
The chosen hedge was planted about 17 years ago, as one of the Walberton Action Group’s (WAG) conservation projects. The hedge was very mature and some of the stems somewhat challenging to lay – ideally hedges should be laid 7 – 10 years after planting before the stems become too thick and awkward to lay.
The group were initially taken to see an established laid hedge along Muddy Lane. Simon showed the group photos of the hedge prior to laying, explained about the regional variations to hedgelaying and why it is enjoying a renaissance.
From the vigorous growth of new stems sprouting from the laid stems it was easy to see how valuable these hedges are as corridors for wildlife – both for those seeking shelter and food eg insects, beetles and mice, and for those preying on them eg owls, bats and hedgehogs.
Primroses and cowslips, kindly donated by Tristram Plants Group's Binsted Nursery had also been planted along the hedge as an additional food source for bees and butterflies.
After a safety briefing and a demonstration of how to create
pleaches with a billhook so as to “lay” the hedge, the group were split into pairs and each given a section of hedge to lay. Creating “pleaches” is quite an art and disentangling the branches from neighbouring stems was challenging at times! The group
were also given the opportunity to finish binding a section of hedge so that everyone had a chance to “have a go” at the beginning and the end of the process.
All the off cuts from the pleaches and the stakes were left in the hedge, to provide a food source and home for beetles eg stag beetles.
MAVES would like to thank Simon Mockford of the South Downs National Park for providing training and running the event. MAVES would also like to thank the landowner for giving access to and permission to lay his hedge and also to the villagers of Binsted for their hospitality
The event was so well received that MAVES will be running it again next year in association with the National Park.