This weekend we burnt. Throughout the winter months Robert lays hedges. This is done in rotation over the farm and is a bit like the Forth bridge – you never ever get to the end.
The final hedge to be laid this winter is between Dillings and Rushy Field. Our third time of laying since we’ve been here. Stupid. In retrospect we should have trimmed it more often to encourage the hedge to stay thick, bushy and do what it’s meant to do; be a strong effective stock barrier as well as providing a bountiful larder, the ultimate des. res. and the definitive transport system for multitudinous types of wildlife. This doesn’t mean hedges should be trimmed every year – but once every three to four and at a slightly greater height each time. By doing this you can increase the hedge’s useful life as a bushy barrier and it should only need laying, say, every twenty years, even forty years, instead of every eight. Of course there’s the other side to the coin – if you don’t trim but lay, the hedge will produce copious quantities of firewood and won’t require hours of fuel-guzzling tractor work. Something which with our changing climate and countryside we should to take into consideration?
It’s hard gruelling work, laying hedges. Especially on our land as the trammelled clay becomes a gloopy, welly-hungry, energy-depleting morass. Over the years Robert has honed his skill and expertise resulting in hedges that are aesthetic living sculptures, works of art. My role, on the other hand, continues much as it always has. I’m the skivvy, the pack donkey, the serf that trudges up and down the hedge line bowed under huge bundles of branches and brash for the final burn and tidy. But in some perverse way it’s satisfying, hard, hot work. And a change from the intensity of the lambing and calving sheds.