Next month, talented rural artisans will compete for the esteemed title of County Durham’s finest hedgelayer in an annual competition.
The 24th Durham Hedgelaying Competition will be held at Woodland Hall Farm, Knitsley on Friday 6 October, with competitors demonstrating rural skills that have been practised for centuries.
Durham County Council, which is part of the Durham Hedgerow Partnership, is organising the competition, which aims to promote a greater understanding and knowledge of the traditional craft and help bring new and young people into the profession.
Cllr Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “Ensuring that we have people with the skills to effectively manage hedges now and in the future is vitally important. Hedges play an essential role in fighting habitat and biodiversity loss, conserving soil, reducing pollution, and for their potential to regulate water supply, reduce flooding and mitigate climate change.
“This competition, which is being hosted at Woodland Hall Farm for the third year, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs Neil Hunter, will be a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the art, showcase the wide range of different styles of hedgelaying and to celebrate the exceptional level of skill involved in the craft.”
The contest, which runs from 9am to 2.30pm is also open to spectators, with everyone welcome to watch the competitors hone their skills, get advice about field boundary management and available grants, or meet local hedgelayers.
Hedgelaying is an ancient country skill and art form, used for hundreds of years to maintain healthy hedgerows in the UK. It involves partially cutting down young trees so they can lie at an angle while still growing from the base. This allows the hedges to become thicker and healthier than a standard trimmed hedge, making better livestock barriers and creating habitat for wildlife.
The competition is free to enter with prizes of £40 to £100 awarded to those finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Open, Intermediate and Novice Classes, as well as additional prizes for Best Local Competitor, Best Re-growth, Best Cutting and Best Junior (aged 18 to 26).
Competitors will be pitting their skills against each other to lay approximately seven metres of hedge, depending on the class entered, in five hours. Points are awarded for neatness, quality of cuts, the use of stakes and binders, straightness of the hedge and adherence to the style of cutting.
Competitors are allowed to cut whatever style they choose as long as the finished hedge is at least 3 foot 6 inches high.
The competition is part of a Grand Prix event with the Scottish Competition being held on 7 October and the North East Competition at Morpeth on 8 October. Points will be awarded for position in each competition and the winner with most points in the overall Grand Prix will receive £200.
The closing date for entries is Friday 29 September.