Monthly Archives: February 2009

hedge laying

Before the days of barbed wire and electric fences hedges were the main way to keep livestock from roaming. The hedges were planted to divide up the land and retain the live stock, when the hedges grew too tall to be effective as stock control it was the job of the hedge layer to manage these living barriers.


Today nearly all rural hedges are given a rather brutal hair cut using a tractor, although effective and time saving it does little for the protection of habitat or the health of the hedge itself.

Above are the tools that are generally all you need to lay a hedge. I pinched the picture from the National Hedge Laying Society. But it illustrates how these tools and methods have remained unchanged for centuries.

Basically without going into too much detail, what happens is, a rather brutal cut is made through the stem to be layed, called the pleacher, about 2/3 of the way through, which allows the stem to be layed down but still connected to the stump. The picture below shows the small hinge left, this small amount is enough to allow the pleacher to survive.


As you lay them posts are driven into the ground and the pleachers woven round to tie them in. This photo shows another hinge to allow this rather hefty branch to be bent back into shape, to keep the line.


The above pictures are from the course I did a few weeks ago. The section I worked on was a nightmare, even the instructor said they were really at the top end of what you would normally lay. At least I learned a great deal from it.

Once the pleacheers are all layed and woven into the stakes, willow or hazel rods are woven along the top to tie the whole thing together.

Each part of the country has it’s own style and they are fiercely upheld. The guy, Max, who taught us is a medal winner in the yorkshire style. Like most crafts it’s a skill and an art.

coping without a garden

To be honest the initial excitement of moving into a new home, a new relationship, cold days and long nights, the lack of any real outside space was not at first an issue. We’d managed to get a share in an allotment plot which is just across the road and it seemed as though we’d been lucky.

However now spring has started to stir the senses I’m missing the connection with nature. We live in a back to back and the front door steps out onto the busy street. I have to convince myself daily that from a permaculture point of view it’s a good location, close to work, shops and a train line.

But as the buds are breaking so is my conviction. Whats worse is that this time last year I was on a 60acre farm, hence the break in the blogging. I miss not being able to have the door wide open all the time and step out to poodle about whenever I like.

There’s other issues too, rubbish, it takes on a whole new meaning when it under your nose 24/7. We, being good little greenies don’t have much but what we do produce takes up valuable space. Only having one room on the ground floor which is the living room and kitchen.

To put it out I need two sets of keys one for the door and one for the bin yard, which in reality means it stays in the kitchen longer than it should. The compost is the same luckily we have an allotment to compost it on but again need two sets of keys to dispose of it. The slightest hint of rain or breeze means it sits in bags festering.

Finally there’s the inability to make anything, I’m getting more involved in green woodwork but have nowhere to practice. Luckily having a creative partner filling the kitchen with wood shavings is allowed. But you can only go so far, spoons to be precise. We do have a cellar but its a little like being on the set of the poseidon adventure.

I’m sure some people can cope but I can’t we need to move, I demand a garden, we’ll talk about the workshop, woodland, yurts……………

gorgeous birds

Just wanted to say how lucky I’ve been with birds recently. All right sorry, but in the last month or so I’ve seen two King Fisher’s, one last week at the river near Bolton Abbey and one the week before down by the canal near Horsforth. I can’t explain enough how over excited I was, not sure why.

While walking last month at Almscliffe Cragg not too far out of the city, we spotted a Red Kite, it was so graceful it rendered a rather loud mouth bunch speachless.

This morning we heard a screeching coming from across the road, being a nosey pair we took a look to find a Starling being pinned down by a Sparrow Hawk. It’s orange eyes darting from us and it’s prey. It seemed stuck for a way to despatch the starling without loosing an eye.

We left them to it, discussing how we’d get out of it if we were birds and how it’s strange to see birds eating birds and not so much fish eating fish.

recycle before you redecorate

The house that we live in is a little on the grubby side but being the ethical minded souls we are, we did’nt want to simply march to B&Q and pick up another bucket of chemicals and with our purse strings tighter than Scrouge at Christmas, we thought we would search for something better.

Locally we have a company called Seagulls, party of the community re-paint charity, which basically are a charity which recycles paint then sells it on a lower cost. Most of the paint is found in skips and from donations.

We managed to two 5ltr tins for £7 rather than £20 or more and the best thing is they can mix whatever colour you like.

You save money, the environment and help support local community projects at the same time. oh but you do have to put the paint on yourself!!

Seagulls Re-use Ltd
Unit 3 & 4, Aire place mills
Kirkstall Road, Leeds

By Phone:
0113 2467 510

By Email:

Opening times:
Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm
Saturdays 10 am – 2pm

BTCV courses

I’ve just spent the last couple of weeks with BTCV based at Hollybush in Leeds. After another failed job application I was feeling down but not getting the job was probably the best thing that happened as within a week I was re-reading Mike Abbott’s green woodworking and Ben Laws sustainable woodland management, there both great books. I contacted Mike Abbott as he runs a week in march setting up the woodland studio, alas he was booked up another blow.

I was not going to be beaten though, I found another set of courses run by CAT- centre for alternative technology, that begin in April. The one I fancy is coppice products, it’s 5 days and OCN level2, whatever that means.

It still left me impatient and frustrated so I looked for more, I remembered someone mentioning BTCV so I gave them a look. They run loads of courses all over the country. I found that the Leeds office is just down the road from me which was a bonus.

Sick of looking at the screen I went down and spoke to them, Basically you can go there almost every day of the week and help out with some type of conservation work some in schools and some on contract. While in the office I noticed two lists for courses. One for tree felling and one for hedge laying and all I needed to do was fill in my name and I was on it for free.

They were great courses and I learned a great deal from both, pictures when I’ve fixed my camera that I managed to drop. I’ve also volunteered coppicing a local woodland- Owlcoates plantation- chopping down trees to create stools, and allowing the stronger trees to have more space making them better timber trees.

If you have the time go and give your local BTCV a go.