Traditional Hedge laying was originally developed as a way of containing livestock after the Enclosure Acts of the 16th C. The process involves part cutting the framework branches of an existing hedge (shrubs and trees) and bending the stems, horizontal. This creates livestock proof barriers, rejuvenates the existing hedge and provides protection for crops and wildlife.
Practically, the aim is to reduce the thickness of the upright stems of the hedgerow trees by cutting away the wood on one side of the stem and in line with the course of the hedge. Each stem, known as a pleacher is laid down horizontally, along the length of the hedge. A section of bark and sapwood must be left connecting the pleacher to its roots to keep it alive.
The height and condition of the trimmed stool is important as this is where the strongest new growth will develop. The pleachers will eventually die, but by then new stems should have grown from the stool, after which, if the hedge has not been trimmed, the hedge laying process can be repeated. Hedges can be trimmed for many years after laying before allowing the top to grow to a sufficient height to lay again. Smaller shoots and upright stems too small to be used as pleachers are partly removed or woven between the pleachers to add cohesion to the finished hedge.
The hedge in the photographs is laid in the “Lancashire style”, which features a double row of stakes, placed alternately, with the pleachers lying between the stakes and the brash pulled to the outside, usually to a minimum height of one metre.