Hedge laying – why not?

Today was the first day of my two day course on hedge-laying.  Here’s the tutor:

We started off by rolling back the fencing on a hedge planted five years ago and then removing the rabbit guards and canes:

Ed, our tutor, then showed us how to go on, he’s a great communicator and lays hedges for a living as well as forestry contracting.  His words of wisdom were very good, and often very amusing, a real good craike (or blather as we might say in Yorkshire).

This is the hedge before we started to lay it, with the stakes stacked at the side around which the pleachers, or liggers are woven:

Here Ed shows us how to start a pleach, or cut that will allow the plant to be laid over without breaking away from the roots, so that the ligger and the root will both sprout new growth in the growing season.

Bare hand for control of the axe and a donkey skin mitten to repell thorns.

This is the essential – the pleach, cutting the stem just enough to make it lie down without springing back up.

In goes a stake – carefully measured, “Good staking can make crap laying look good, but crap staking will spoil good laying.”

A man who knows what he’s talking about commands attention with ease.

Glorious afternoon, with everybody learning a practical skill …

Didn’t we do well?  A joint effort, and the style is traditional Yorkshire stock hedge, which is an immediately effective two-sided stock fence, impenetrable even by lambs.  It lies low at about 25 degrees for our Northern winds and the stakes are in the middle to hold it all together.

Busy felling

Not much winter time left now to get the marked up trees felled off. My stocks of bucked trees is growing, and it’s time to get them all trailered to a place where I can split and store them covered ready for log sales next winter. I’ll also be sorting out the best straight-grained stuff for chairs and turning. It would be good to have a little drier weather as wet gloves are a constant at the moment. The trees I’m working with are on the North side of a steep valley and therefore covered in moss and green bark mold, but things should improve as I’ve started using one pair of gauntlets when using the saw (to help prevent white finger syndrome) and another waterproof pair when handling logs. Handling has improved too by using a closed loop of rope as suggested in the excellent BTCV guide (Here ).  Doing the long splice to join up the rope ends was a fun way to get 20 minutes rest from log extraction too. I’m building up stocks of bean poles for the beanpole weekends in April/May and there will be lots of pea sticks. I’ll be looking out some way of tying up the bundles using either hazel clefts or stripped brambles.

On my day off I had the usual list of jobs:

The marmalade took all day, in the background, at least I wasn’t tempted to eat the fruit:

The main job was replacing the burnt out fire grate for the open fire.  The problem was caused by abuse while burning coal in the bad old days, if the ash is not removed when the pan is full, the cast iron gets too hot and burns away:

The repair I did had burnt out too (mild steel doesn’t cut the mustard!)

Surprisingly the replacement grate fit pretty well, using a few mini fire bricks to fill the gap where the old one curved up at the front:

Took the opportunity to fill in some of the cracks in the firebricks too.

Then sealed it all up and swept it from the roof which avoids a lot of soot in the room.

Yes that is a bike box, the bike wheel (used a bit) came in it, and I didn’t get that third from last job done!

Today and tomorrow I’m hedge-laying in Silsden, needing warm clothing as the  wind is in the East and it’s close to freezing with snow forecast – again!


The head forester came down on Tuesday and marked up quite a number of beech, ash and sycamore trees for thinning.  These ones are a size bigger than the ones I’ve been working on and some are on a slope.  I’ve been looking at ways of getting the logs down to the track using aerial ropeways  and chutes, there’s too much to carry manually.  I’m considering a simple set up with slings on a tree at top and bottom with a continuous pulley mounted rope carrying a winch to lift the logs off the deck.  We’ll see.  Bird tables in production now, it’s much quicker and more accurate to turn the roof support columns than whittle them, and so long as I choose reasonably straight branches, they turn with bark left on with no problem.  I had an enquiry for one with a free standing base (i.e. standing on a hard surface rather than with the pole sunk in the ground).  I think I can manage that OK.

Here’s one of the larger thinnings.

A larger tree

A larger tree

Day off the cold

Luckily my two days off this week coincided with very cold weather.  I’ve been busy felling / thinning trees in Strid all week, which seems to be going well, as my meeting with Roy, the Head Forester confirmed.  I may be there for two years.  Felling certainly keeps you warm when wearing full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and then struggling with trees that resist coming down, and then lugging the sawn up logs to a stack at the side of the track (or ride as we say int’ woods).  Anyway, the day off gave me an opportunity to carry on the leather work I started for the first time at the NE APT meet last Sunday.  Sheaths for other sharp tools:

The red leather will help identification when dropped on the forest floor – always a problem with anything brown or wooden.  The red scrap just cost £1.50 from a leather stockist in the next village.  Axe and adze now have sheaths,  I just need some rivets to stop the sharp edge contacting the inside of the sheath.  Sadly all leather is now imported into the UK, I was mis-informed, as all UK tanneries have closed, in part due to the heavy pollution and health and safety controls. Much leather is imported, but there are still several tanneries alive and kicking in the UK.  The brown background is a shoulder of leather that I will be using for a woven checkerboard seat on my next but one chair project which incorporates a large inverted tree fork as the back legs.  While returning to the bodgery from felling on Thursday, I spotted a large forked branch in the River Wharfe, I recognized it.  I had cut it about two weeks ago, and reserved it for a future project (like a chair, using a fork for the back legs!).  Some one had apparenty thrown it in the river, hope they had fun.  I managed to retrieve it with a branch, and secrete it at the bodgery.

Hooks and bangs

Here are some current projects:

Left to right, Elm bread crock lid with one of the handle options, not really green at all, but I’m doing in exchange for a numner to go on my shaving horse and keep my bum dry.  Then a whip and top; trouble with these guys is finding somewhere flat that’s suitable to test them out, seem to remember the school playground was good, forest floor is a no no (leather whip though but!).  The knobbly thing is a row of hooks for a friend’s rustic French property, the board is rippled Ash, which I found exceeding difficult to get flat.  The pegs are threaded to hold ’em in.

Felling in the woods today (four Ash) in the wettish snow.  While eating my lunch in the Land Rover overlooking theRiver Wharfe, I noticed a couple o brace o Merganzers.  Well I thought it was two pairs but then turned out to be a menage a trois with a reject male, much bossing around by the dominant male.

And later a refugee from Ash shooting jumped into the Landy!  Not got the full story on this yet but someone turns up by agreement with Roy the head forester and harvests Ash keys with a gun, I think they may be from Kew.  Anyway, this lil Staffy Bull Terrior was terrified and thought my vehicle was safe refuge, jumped in twice!


I’ll miss the Winter shapes of the trees once Spring is here.  And yesterday while felling I disturbed some dead leaves and there was a Bluebell already sprouting about 2 inches tall.  In a mixed woodland like Strid there is sucha diversity of trees and they can be appreciated so well here because of standing out against the sky.  This is because Strid Wood is essentially a Ghyll wood.  A Ghyll being a Yorkshire term for a steeply sloping  V-shaped valley.  Ghylls seem to be the main resource for woodland, presumably because the land was of little use for anything else.  It does make management (tree felling) rather challenging sometimes in the steeper areas.  The terrain is dead leaves covering loose brown soil with hidden stones and boulders (careful with that chainsaw Eugene!).