Creative competitors are set to battle it out as they take part in an annual hedgelaying event in County Durham.
The 22nd Durham Hedge Laying Competition will be held at Houselope Grange Farm, Tow Law, Bishop Auckland, on Friday 8 October. It will be the first time in two years that the event is held after the 2020 competition was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Durham County Council, which is part of the Durham Hedgerow Partnership, is organising the competition, which aims to raise awareness and promote good practice in the skills and techniques of field boundary management and plays a crucial role in attracting new blood to the profession. It will also provide spectators with the opportunity to observe the traditional craft of hedgelaying, which is essential to the conservation of our landscape heritage.
Competitors will be pitting their skills against each other to lay approximately seven metres of hedge, depending on class entered, in five hours. Competitors are allowed to cut whatever style they choose as long as the finished hedge is at least 3ft 6in high.
Different regional styles have developed over many years to suit the climate of an area, varying farming practices and the type of trees and shrubs that grow in a hedge, with more than 30 different styles recorded across the UK.
Hedgerows play an important role in carbon capture and help to mitigate the impacts of climate change by alleviating floods. Despite this, only about one in three hedgerows within County Durham are in good condition and hedgelaying is essential to preserving and regenerating existing hedges.
Hedgerows do such a great job in the battle against carbon that the government’s Climate Change Committee has called for the enhancing and overall increase in hedgerows by 40 per cent to help meet its Net Zero target by 2050.
Spectators are being encouraged to come along and take a look at the ancient tradition, watch the competitors hone their skills, as well as get advice about field boundary management and available grants or meet local hedge layers.
This year’s competition will begin at 9am and conclude at 2.30pm with the awards ceremony. Prizes are awarded to those finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in all classes. Winners in each class receive prize money and a trophy and 2nd and 3rd places receive prize money. The top prize is a championship trophy and up to £80 in cash.
The competition is free to enter and has the following classes:
- Open – Including anyone who makes a regular living from hedgelaying
- Intermediate – Anyone regarding themselves as a competent hedge layer but does not earn a living from hedge laying.
- Novice – Anyone with some experience of hedgelaying (competitors in this section may choose to compete as a pair).
The competition is part of a Grand Prix event with the Scottish Hedge Laying Competition being held on Saturday 9 October and the North East Hedge Laying Competition in Northumberland on Sunday 10 October, in which competitors from all over the country travel to make a long weekend and take part in all three competitions. Points will be awarded for position in each competition and winner with most points in the overall Grand Prix will receive £200.
Graham Teece from Penkridge in Staffordshire will be judging this year’s competition.
Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “We’re delighted to be able to organise this year’s competition and hope that there are plenty of people interested in signing up to take part.
“There are some fantastic prizes up for grabs and I’m sure spectators attending will have a great time watching the competition and viewing the impressive sights that are created by the participants.”
More details about the Durham Hedgerow Partnership can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/haw