Hedge Layer - Matthew Davey

17 December 2019

The strong, fit chap with the chainsaw is hedge-layer Matthew Davey. He's been plashing on the South Ormsby Estate near Calceby in the AONB.

Plashing is a traditional way of forming strong, long-lived and biodiverse hedgerows so that they become havens for wildlife and impenetrable boundaries to livestock. Even if managed with a tractor and flail, modern hedges can become leggy and die out over time. By contrast, periodic plashing can extend a hedge's life indefinitely.

Matthew learned hedge-laying at agricultural college. He gained experience on a countryside management project, learning traditional skills from older hands and securing his chainsaw ticket. His job demands experience, skill and physical strength. No amount of book or video learning is a match for laying kilometres of hedgerow every year. In Lincolnshire, he applies the Midlands style of plashing – one of several regional varieties – which involves binding the top of the hedge with willow or hazel.

Matthew's craft dates back thousands of years. Roman legions are known to have used plashing to reinforce their timber forts and the practice was old even then. Europe's pre-historic settlers are thought to have plashed hedgerows to keep livestock after clearing woodland. This ancient and sustainable way of managing the rural landscape is right at home on the 21st-century South Ormsby Estate.



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