Hedge brings new life to Gorleston street

A TRADITIONAL rural craft is bringing a little piece of the English countryside to a busy Gorleston street. The ancient art of hedge-laying is helping to improve the environment next to the Long Lane allotments.

Tree surgeon Kevin Parker has been carrying out the work for the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Allotments Association this week.

He is restoring the hedgerow using a method that largely disappeared from East Anglia with the onset of modern arable farming.

A lack of maintenance had resulted in the hawthorn hedge becoming tall and gappy allowing trespassers to gain access to the site.

Rather than replacing the hedge with a wooden or metal fencing, the allotment association decided to bring it back to life.

Hedge laying involves cutting through the stems and placing them at an angle and using stakes and weave for support.

Previously working in graphic reproduction, Kevin, 53, decided on a radical career change after being made redundant several years ago.

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He learnt the skill at Flatford Mill field study centre in Suffolk and undertakes an increasing amount of work laying hedges adopting a style commonly used in the Midlands.

Much of the work involves using hand tools that would have been familiar to rural labourers from centuries gone by

Kevin said: “This is an old craft from the mists of time and when the hedge grows back it is very thick and in good health. “This provides a better environment for wildlife – birds can nest more securely and the dense base provides a good habitat for mammals. The upright stakes act as support and the weave binding along the top of the hedge holds everything in place.

“I spent several days gathering coppice from an ancient woodland and it makes the hedge so solid I could walk along the top. He added: “If a hedge is not treated it will start to die and end up as a group of separate trees or shrubs. Several passers by have stopped and admired my handiwork; it is quite an unusual sight.”

The hedge can be trimmed on a regular basis or left to grow and re-laid again after seven or eight years.

Hedge-laying declined following the second world war due to labour shortages, the introduction of machinery to cut hedges, wire fences and changes in agriculture.

By the 1960s hedges were declining at an alarming rate with many grubbed out to make larger fields that could be more efficiently managed by larger machinery.

Allotments association secretary Tony Pitcford said: “We had an issue with security on the site because the hedge had so many gaps in it. There was the option of ripping it out and replacing it with a fence that might only be there 20 years or restoring the hedge which should outlast me. This is more in keeping with the allotment site, it increases bio-diversity and has a has a very attractive appearance.”

l The Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Allotment Society is an independent organisation that has around 1,000 plots on 14 sites across the borough. Unlike many places where there are long waiting lists, the association has allotments available to rent.

Chairman Arthur Fisk said: “In these times of rising food prices, serious consideration should be given to acquiring an allotment. People in the borough have an asset that helps many families grow food at reasonable prices. Many towns have huge waiting lists, but in Gorleston and Great Yarmouth it is virtually nill.”

For more information, call Mr Fisk on 01493 658750 or Tony Pitchford on 07780757466.