Turf hedging – 7th of May, 2016

By Laura Tunstall-Murray

The DRST held its annual turf hedging course on a bright day at Marldon on 7th May. We had a good turn out for the course, which was led by Mick Jones.

The day started with us looking at what can be done to prepare the area to make the build easier, such as removing brambles and stinging nettles as the roots make the turfs rather difficult to dig and can affect the integrity of the bank once constructed. The particular bank Mick chose for us to work on (no shortage on Alan’s farm!) had had its hedge layed 18 months beforehand on a DRST course. We began with a comprehensive demonstration and were allotted roughly 4m each. Everyone knuckled down after a brief shower followed by a day of what was mostly glorious sun. The speed at which the bank was finished was very impressive, with many completing their stretch to move onto another patch down the hill (quite a steep hill I might add).

Turf hedging certainly makes for a faster/cheaper alternative to stone facing with the downside being a shorter life span.Looking at the bank at the beginning of the course you’d find it hard to believe that it would end looking so neat and tidy! To top the bank, triangular sections are cut which not only function as a smooth finish to the top but also act as way to remove the sharp edge to the hole you’ve been digging your turfs from. Helping prevent potential silly sheep get stuck in their backs.

The bank also included a bumble bee house courtesy of Mick Godfrey for an unfortunate bee who was disturbed.

All in all, a good day had by all in the May sunshine. Not to mention the addition of some lovely homemade cakes!

Devon Coppice Group

There will be a Public Meeting at the Fingle Bridge Inn at Drewsteignton near Okehampton EX6 6PW on Thurs the 21st of April at 6.45pm to launch the new Devon Coppice Group.
For full information contact info@wealdenheartwood.co.uk or http.www.westcountrycoppice.co.uk.

If anyone goes could they please let Don Gaskins have a report of the meeting for Skills (dongaskins@talktalk.net) .

Hedgesteeping at Bilany take 2…

By Jeremy Weiss

What a splendid day was conjured up for us today at Judy’s Bilany… And loads of people, so many that we had to take on two extra sections of hedge. Novices, trainees and old lags worked together to make a brilliant job of the hedge along the drive leading up to the farm. As instructor for the day it was great to see everyone in good spirits, working away willingly, asking interesting questions and applying themselves wholeheartedly to the job at hand. Judy was very pleased witht the work and gave a generous donation to the trust.

Here are some pictures from today, a full report will be in the print edition of Skills.

The next course is dry stone walling at Buckland in the Moor on the 26th of March. Hope to see you there.

Hedgesteeping at Woodah Farm

By Laura Tunstall Murray

The DRST was blessed with a rain free day on Saturday’s course at Woodah, the Devon Wildlife Trust’s farm near Doddiscombleigh. It was a busy course with 20 people altogether including chainsaw helpers, who were let off lightly due the size of the steepers. An unusually quiet day without the whhhhr of chainsaws!

The hedge varied quite widely with dense holly at one end with a couple of elms feeding through to hazel and onto a mix of black and hawthorn. The steepers were quite small due to the age (reckoned at somewhere around 8 years) making it an ideal hedge for beginners. Certainly it was nice break from what has seemed like a winter of thorny hedges.

Considering the ominous forecast we were very lucky, the day was a little blustery towards the end which can make cutting steepers a bit tricky in an exposed spot. A big gust can rip the steeper off once the pleach becomes thin.

An impressively large length was completed at the end of the day, in fact instructor Nick Dawe reckoned it was the longest length ever he ever seen completed on a course. All in all a good day with a lot achieved.

The next course in on the 5th of March, hedgesteeping at Billany, near Dartington.

Hedgesteeping at Orcheton

By Laura Tunstall-Murray

On Saturday’s course at Little Orcheton we were blessed with a rare, bright, clear winter’s day for Maxine’s hedge laying course. We had a good turn out of 15 people with a few DRST regulars. The hedge was mostly hazel with the odd blackthorn, hawthorn and a little rose.
Many of the steepers were very large and parts of the hedge were quite sparse so some challenging pleaching was involved.

Split into groups of three or four we managed to lay a decent stretch of hedge carrying on from two years of previous courses. Mick and Jonathan were particularly busy with their chainsaws due to the size of the steepers, but farm owner Graham was pleased at the end of the day.

All in all a good day with potential for more courses and hopefully some training days for the DRST trainees in future.

Next course is Wattle Hurdle making with Don Gaskins at the Rudolf Steiner School on Saturday, 30th of January. Click here for more details.

Hedgesteeping Tests

Despite the horrendous weather, four intrepid people went to Billany on the 9th of January to do hedgesteeping proficiency tests. 

In very challenging conditions of mud, rain, hail and even thunder, Laura and Mitchell passed their Novice Level Certificates, laying 5 and a half yards each in six hours, while Alice and Magnus passed the Intermediate Level, laying 11 yards each in the same time. 

Congratulations to all four for excellent results. Some very impressive work. 

Hedge steeping at Ham Farm, Loddiswell.

Had a good day yesterday on a hedgelaying course at Ham Farm led by Chris Bond. Like myself, Chris is a former trainee, now instructing on courses. There were lots of new faces and plenty of old too, and an interesting tractor mounted machine being demonstrated as a means to processs brash. Mulled cider followed in the farmhouse thanks to our wonderfully artistic hosts. A full write up of the day will follow for members in the next edition of Skills, Nick has just sent out the winter edition.

There are still a couple of spaces available on the next hedge course on 16th of January with Max, and on the hurdle course with Don on the 30th. Find out more here

Here are some photos I took yesterday.