Tuesday, 13 March 2018 14:21

High Barnet’s hedge-layers in action

Written by Nick Jones
David (left) and John Sawkins working on the double-brush Hertfordshire hedge David (left) and John Sawkins working on the double-brush Hertfordshire hedge
A double-brush Hertfordshire hedge – re-laid in a way passed on by a Romany gipsy who lived at Welham Green – is the latest addition to the Barnet Environment Centre in Byng Road.

John Sawkins and his son David have spent the winter months relaying hedges around the boundaries of the environment centre.

The hedge that takes pride of place is the section alongside the approach road, from the centre towards the Byng Road rugby field.

John and David were instructed and assisted by Hatfield hedge-layer Stephen Gibson (www.hedgeandhazel.co.uk) whose mentor was the late Middy Page, one of a family of Romany gipsies who lived and worked around Welham Green.

“Stephen told us that he learned from Middy Page how to lay a double-brush hedge, and its great to think that this local tradition has been handed down and that thanks to Stephen it can now be seen in Barnet,” said Mr Sawkins, of Wentworth Road, Barnet.

“A double-brush hedge is different because after the upright growths are pleached -- cut and laid out at an angle of 30 degrees above the ground – the new hedge has growth either side.

“Hopefully when spring comes there will be twigs and leaves on both sides of the hedge. It’s kept firmly upright by hazel stakes which are a short distance apart – a distance from elbow to finger point, as Middy used to say.

“Previously this stretch of hedge was overgrown and now that it has been re-laid, people passing by will get a better view of the environment centre and its paths, trees and plants.”

The Sawkins began their hedge-laying on a 200-yard stretch on the western boundary of the environment centre, and this kept them busy most autumn and winter weekends.

“We both like being outside, doing something useful and there is no better pastime than hedge-laying because it so rewarding.  It has become a real hobby,” said David.

Working together in the environment centre has brought another great bonus because they are rarely short of company.

“We have a kestrel that keeps an eye on us from the top of one of the trees, and we regularly see one of the local foxes and muntjac deer.

“Other visitors are kites and buzzards, and this winter in the cold weather, we have seen redwings and fieldfare.”

“Please come and see our beautiful hedgerow” says the environment centre’s latest newsletter.

It pays tribute to the Sawkins and many other supporters who have helped sharpening stakes and clearing up after hedge-laying weekends. 

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