Scotney Castle are delighted to be promoting…
The South Of England Hedge Laying Society (SEHLS)
Annual Hedge Laying Competition
Sunday 21 February, 9am – 4pm
Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst Kent TN3 8JN
“This is a great opportunity for the public to see some of the best quality hedge laying in the country and learn more about the craft which is enjoying something of a renaissance.” SEHLS President Peter Tunks
National Trust Volunteer Estate Guides will be running guided walks to the site throughout the day.
For more information please visit: www.sehls.co.uk
I thought that it would be a good idea to write a blog about hedgerows, their management and benefits on the Scotney Castle Estate.
Hedgerow history in the High Weald
Hedgerows have been an intrinsic part of the British landscape for thousands of years; their shape, function and history however differ in each region.
In the High Weald landscape, hedgerows were often relics of slow, small scale woodland clearance by the Anglo-Saxons, where boundaries were formed by leaving strips of woodland in-between the newly created agricultural fields1. These hedges, or Shaws, therefore were made up of mainly tree species and were not often straight or uniform, but were subsequently managed as hedgerows for livestock enclosure.
It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th Centuries that planted hedges, usually of Hawthorn, appeared through the Enclosures Act, although these are uncommon in the High Weald.
Since the mechanisation of agriculture post World War Two, hedgerows were removed to allow larger fields and therefore more efficient farming. Added to this, the invention of barbed wire fences has seen over 300,000 miles of hedgerow lost since 1945.2
When woodlands were cleared, wildlife was forced to seek sanctuary in the newly created hedgerows and many have become reliant on this ‘secondary woodland’ habitat for nesting, dispersal and food. Species at Scotney include Dormice, Great crested newts, Brimstone butterflies and Whitethroats. The RSPB claim that 80% of our woodland birds, 50% of our mammals and 30% of our butterflies utilise hedgerows.3 A hedgerow with a diverse mix of trees and shrubs provide more potential for different wildlife to flourish.
Hedgerow planting at Scotney Castle
Several kilometres of hedges have been planted at Scotney Castle over the last few years, this has enabled wildlife corridors to criss-cross the whole estate. A mix of species have been planted including hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, spindle, hornbeam and hazel. Thank you to TCV and the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing whips and volunteers, alongside our regular volunteers, to fulfil this aim.
Hedge-laying at Scotney Castle
As hedgerows were established they then had to be managed, laying and coppicing are typical techniques, with regional styles developing across the country. The invention of the mechanical flail however has made hedgerows look uniform across our landscape. At Scotney Castle, alongside the South of England Hedgelaying Society (SEHLS) we have been laying hedges in order to preserve this ancient technique that goes as far back as Roman times.
In the ‘southern’ style the stem of each individual tree is ‘pleached’ and laid in the same direction, providing a thick barrier beneficial for wildlife and livestock control. Then hazel or willow stakes and binders, coppiced on site or from local woodlands, are added giving the hedge extra height and strength.
Thank you for reading.
1 – Hedges in the Weald, http://www.Highweald.org
2 – Hedgerows in the High Weald landscape http://www.highweald.org
3 – Value of hedgerows for wildlife, http://www.RSPB.org.uk