The 2018 National Hedge Laying Championship are to be held at Lark Rise Farm, Cambridgeshire.
The Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) and National Hedge Laying Society (NHLS) are extremely happy to announce that the 40th National Hedge Laying Championship in 2018 will take place on the CRT’s flagship farm; Lark Rise, in Cambridgeshire.
The hedge-laying competition is not only a contest between some of the finest hedgelayers in the country, but also a showcase for the different styles that have historically been associated with various regions. The competition is divided into separate classes for the regional styles with some having a separate category for less experienced cutters.
According to Dr. Vince Lea, Head of Wildlife Monitoring at the CRT, “having a variety of shapes and sizes of hedge will benefit the greatest range of species on a farm, from tightly clipped to overgrown but it’s important to understand the farm’s objectives. Fundamentally hedgerows are ‘managed habitats’ and should be integrated into a farm’s plan. The network of habitat connections provided by hedgerows allow wildlife to move across the landscape; more important than ever as species’ distributions move northwards in response to climate change. Laid hedges are much denser nesting habitat for birds like song thrushes and Bullfinches. Also, because the hedges are not flailed annually but allowed to grow for many years before they are next laid they produce a lot more flowers in the spring and fruit in the Autumn. That’s why it’s so important to protect the farmed countryside, its wildlife and to value the people with the knowledge and skills to look after it”.
The different styles of hedge-laying which are generally localised to specific parts of the UK have been developed over many years to suit the climate of the area, different farming practices and the type of trees and shrubs that grow in the hedge. Each year the National Championship tests the skills of hedgelayers on at least eight of the main styles in current use.
“It is a great opportunity to come and see some of the best hedgelayers from around the country display their skills in the highest level of competition,” says NHLS Trustee and Championship Co-ordinator, Andrew Crow. “Hedgelaying differs around the country in the way that it is done and the National Championship allows you to watch as the various styles are laid. It is a unique opportunity to see all of these regional variations in one place and talk to experts in all of them. Holding the 2018 Championship at Lark Rise Farm, which over the past 25 years has been transformed from an intensively farmed wildlife desert to a productive, wildlife-friendly 400-acre arable farm, is an extremely poignant way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our fantastic competition, as well as the CRT’s silver jubilee”.
The reintroduction of hedgerows on to Lark Rise Farm has been an integral part of the CRT’s farm management plan. The landscape is managed using sympathetic farming practices and the creation of hedgerows has divided the farm into smaller fields which are planted with a mosaic of crops. The farm is teaming with wildlife and is home to many red-listed birds and threatened wildlife.
“As the Tenant of Lark Rise Farm, it is a great privilege to host the National Hedge Laying Championship of 2018” says Tim Scott, “Who would have thought some 20 years ago, when groups of CRT volunteers were planting tiny saplings, whilst struggling with mud up to their knees, that we would now have magnificent hedges suitable for such a prestigious event”.