As previous blogs illustrate, the uniqueness of the Cornish Hedgerow is an essential ingredient to the Cornish Landscape in general. Modern history has seen many attempts to halt the demise of the hedges and subsequent standardisation
, which although well meaning hasn't addressed the localised styles which made these hedges so special.
For a long period traditional hedgebuilding, planting and hedgelaying in particular were kept alive by way of quangos and NGOs, training programmes for students. Following ESA and Countryside Stewardship agreements, (now the environmental stewardship scheme
), more and more of these traditional methods were being implemented. However more recently substantial numbers of people from different backgrounds, (not landowners) are purchasing areas of land and subsequently are turning to using these traditional techniques.
Having trained a long time ago in hedgelaying and following an upsurge of interest of interest it was great to get back into this craft. The vegetation atop of a Cornish Hedgerow is an important and integral part of the structure of the hedge in order to keep the hedge into longevity. The hedgelaying process allows for the roots to develop into the structure. As the hedge matures the backfill within the wall basically composts allowing for roots to pack tightly. If the trees are not maintained the structure as a whole becomes highly susceptible to adverse weather conditions as has been seen lately.
The traditional image of the Cornish Hedge is of the windswept hedges of the North Cornish and Penwith District Hedges. The trees and vegetation here are essentially laid by the wind action itself, which enables the same process as the laying to occur.
Copyright Rob Wolton, from the hedgelink website
Many of the hedges in Cornwall consist of species, which are difficult to lay (and certainly hedgelayers in other parts of the UK would baulk at the idea of using such species), including Blackthorh, Hawthorn and Gorse. Such plants can be maintained by hedgelaying but usually occur in the more windswept areas and as such can be used a good indicator that hedgelaying is unnecessary for the reasons described above.
However in South Cornwall and the isolated valleys and pockets found across the County, the majority of the trees found in hedgerows are sycamores which have replaced the Elm, Ash and Oak which once predominated and were lost principally as a result of the diminishing of hedgelaying practices after WWII.
The Elm however can still be found struggling on in many places and is ideal for laying, it responds quickly and can create a hedge as good as any suburban equivalent within a very short space of time.
Thus the preservation of a species is ultimately linked to the preservation of an important element of Cornish Heritage.
Hedgelaying - Cornish Garden LandscapingCornish Apple Trees