By Don Gaskins
The Westcountry landscape is unique in many ways but particularly renowned for its stone walls and hedgebanks which are an essential part of the countryside scene. The varied geology of the area has enabled our forebears to construct dry stone walls of granite and limestone in the uplands of Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor and the hills of Somerset and Gloucestershire and in exposed coastal locations where hedges would struggle to survive. Elsewhere local stone has been used to face up Devon and Cornish earth banks topped with hedges. In areas where stone is not readily available turf faced banks have been constructed.
All these features need maintenace and repair from time to time and in new development completely new walls and hedgebanks are often constructed. Under new agri environment schemes there are proposals to make available capital grants to ensure the retention of these important landscape features. Stone is expensive to purchase and becoming more difficult to find locally as small quarries are worked out or closed down because they are not economc to run. Turf facing is a cheaper alternative and usually the material to repair or construct new sections of hedgebank is readily available close at hand.
We have organised a DRST turf hedging course to be held at Culvertor Farm, Farthing Lane, Marldon (close to the Chtristmas Tree Farm) on Saturday the 25th of March by kind permission of local landowner Alan Dommett where you can learn the technique of digging turf blocks from the adjacent field to repair and reconstruct a length of hedgebank. This is an essential traditional Devon skill which is easy to learn and which it is really important to keep alive.
Come along and give it a try. You will find it very satisfying!