An ancient rural craft, which is considered essential for conservation and protecting wildlife, will be on display in County Durham later this week.

The annual Durham Hedgelaying Competition will be held on Friday 11th October at Gridon Grange Farm near Stockton-on-Tees.

Hedgelaying is the traditional art of creating and maintaining hedges by hand or with hand-held tools. The craft involves bending and partially cutting – but not breaking – the trees and shrubs that make up the hedgerow so they can grow horizontally and intertwine.

Hedgelaying is seen as a vital component in the management of rural ecosystems, especially with regards to the maintenance of field boundaries.

Traditionally laid hedges can also provide a haven for wild animals and birds as well as protecting crops and giving the countryside an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

The first known reference to the art of hedgelaying is from the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War. Caesar describes his army being held up by densely woven hedges during a battle in Belgium in 57 BC.

Hedgelaying became especially important in Britain in the 16th century, as a way of making sure livestock stayed in fields after common land began to be enclosed.

Durham County Council’s landscape delivery officer, Sue Mullinger, said, “The Hedgelaying Competition is always a really special event, and I would encourage anyone who has not seen the skill in practice to come along.”

“As well as being a fantastic skill, hedgelaying is so important to our environment as it provides a habitat for wildlife.”

“It is also a great part of our heritage, with different regions creating different styles to suit the climate of their area. There is therefore a real sense of place and pride rooted in this competition.”

Friday’s competition will have three different levels:

  • Open, for anyone who makes a regular living from hedgelaying
  • Intermediate, for anybody who is a competent hedgelayer, but does not make a regular living from the craft
  • Novice, for those with some experience of hedgelaying. People entering the novice category are allowed to compete in pairs.

Competitors will be expected to lay around 7 metres of hedge over five hours though there will be some variation depending on the level.

The Durham Hedgelaying Competition is one of the few contests in the country that permit competitors to cut whatever style of hedge they want. The finished hedge must, however, be at least three-feet-and-six-inches tall.

Advice will be on offer at the event about field boundary management and available grants for anybody interested.

As well as the Durham Hedgelaying Competition, other hedgelaying events will be taking place this weekend.

The Scottish Hedgelaying Competition will be held on Saturday 12th October and the North East Hedgelaying Competition will take place on Sunday 13th October. Some competitors will be taking part in all three contests.

The 2019 Durham Hedgelaying Competition will take place at Grindon Grange Farm, Thorpe Thewles, Stockton-on-Tees, TS21 3HY, on Friday 11th October between 8.30am and 2.00pm. It will be the 21st year in which the contest has been held in County Durham.

For more information about the competition, and about hedgelaying in general, please go to

(This article’s featured image is from the 2018 Durham Hedgelaying Competition.)

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