Devon Style Hedgelaying

Devon style hedgelaying differs from styles used in other parts of the country. Instead of the cut stems ("pleachers") being laid at an angle and supported by stakes they are laid much closer to the horizontal and pegged down using tent-peg shaped "crooks" cut from the hedge.

This works as a stock proof barrier because of the "Devon bank"; in Devon and the immediate area, field boundaries have traditionally been marked by large banks often accompanied by a ditch. The hedge is laid on top of the bank and the two combined produce a formidable obstacle.

Where the width of the bank allows the hedge is laid in two "combs", one on each edge of the bank separated by a gap. Once the laying is complete the slumped sides of the bank can be dug up and "cast up" into the gap between the combs. This has 3 main effects: it increases the overall height of the barrier, it squares off the base of the bank and makes the face more vertical and more difficult to climb, and the cast up earth encourages the laid pleachers to root and propagate.

Once laid and dug up the hedge is trimmed is subsequent years. Initially the trimming is done close to the laid pleachers to encourage growth from the base. Once established, the trimming height can be gradually increased to provide a thick hedge. Eventually, when the stems become large and woody, the hedge is allowed to "grow up" and gain height while the sides continue to be trimmed. This will typically start 15 to 20 years after the hedge has been initially laid. The top growth is allowed to increase until big enough for the whole process to start again.

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Affiliated to the National Hedgelaying Society