Land Manager's Diary: Read it here>

It was a wet and windy day out with 6 hardy volunteers at High Borrowdale on Wednesday. You always feel you are touching base with the elements in that valley, Lakeland exposure in full force. We were not put off though and had a good day fixing water gates and walls.

Luckily we had the cow shed to shelter in for lunch, and a lovely surprise – the Barn Owl is back in the box we put up on the rafters many years ago. That must be the first barn owl we have seen in the valley or our barns for a decade.

Pictured: Cow shed, 2011 on a sunny and warm day! 

We were also doing a bit of hedge laying and adding some new hedge plants to an old hedge bank that was in need of attention. 

Traditional hedge laying is something, like dry stone walling, that Friends of the Lake District have championed for decades, running both an annual hedging and walling competition. Hedges and walls give our landscapes their character and texture as well as providing a real home for our wildlife and having other benefits such as slowing the flow of surface water. But like walls, hedges vary in styles around the country. Each style has been developed over many years to cope with the climate of the area, different farming practices and the type of trees and shrubs that grow in the hedge. There are more than thirty styles recorded in the UK and each year the National Hedgelaying Championship tests the skills of hedgelayers on eight of the main styles in current use.

So what style do we have in Cumbria? We have Cumberland hedging and Westmorland hedging but what is the difference?

Cumberland hedgelayers cut all but the main stems away, while Westmorland enthusiasts retain many of the minor stems. The basic techniques are the same, cutting through three quarters or so of the stems and then bending them over – laying them. This encourages new growth from the cut and from this a thicker hedge. If hedges are not maintained they will grow tall, leggy and thin and there will be holes at the base. A good hedge can last 50 years.

If you fancy trying your hand at hedging, there are training days around the county that you can attend, or if you want to watch the masters at work, come along to our annual Hedgelaying Competition early next year at Low Sizergh Barn on Saturday 11th March 2023.