The Secretary of State for DEFRA, Hilary Benn, came to Rooksbury Mill in Andover for a Masterclass in hedge-Laying. Joining him were a number of Tree Wardens from Villages around Andover, the Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Ian Carr and the local MP Sir George Young.
Before they started, the Vice Chairman of the Hedge Layers Society, Nigel Adams, gave a brief history of hedge laying. Hedges had been used for hundreds of years to keep livestock in fields, but the art risked dying out - not least as the number of traditional hedges in the countryside reduced. A number of measures were now being introduced to encourage farmers to keep, or re-introduce hedges, under the agri-environment scheme. A properly laid hedge would keep rabbits out, and would last for 20 years if properly maintained. Coppicing was an alternative to hegge-laying.
Nigel Adams, assisted by John Stokes, then explained how to lay a edge by slicing it at the bottom, and then leaning the plant to one side; then driving in stakes and weaving the hedge in between the stakes. A good hedger, they were told, would lay 22 yards in a day - depending on the thickness of the hedge.
"In an hour, we learnt the basics; but there is enormous skill involved in doing it quickly, properly and safely."