FFK Journal

Keep up-to-date with Family Foraging Kitchen right here, where we will be sharing all sorts of posts, including the latest news about our initiatives, great wild food recipes, information about southeast Cornwall, and advice on how to develop your own foraging skills!

The Value of Hedgelaying

Simon Ingram has shared his recent musings on the British hedgerow over at The Guardian. He touches upon the appeal of their apparent chaos, one that is actually deliberate in design, as well as their historic and national ubiquity. He is right to mention other skills, such as dry stone walling and forestry, not only because of their similarities but also because hedgelaying is a true amalgamation of knowledge. It requires a grasp of coppicing for its maintenance and an understanding of the wild hedgerow to best encourage a thriving ecosystem. 

While fundamentally hedgelaying is about building barriers, usefully containing land and sectioning off areas with livestock, such as sheep and cattle, they play a much larger role across the British countryside by giving shelter and passage to an abundance of creatures. Animals like bats and birds are able to travel through them, while smaller creatures are able to establish well-protected homes among the dense branches. Unlike alternatives, hedgelaying also creates a wealth of food, such as berries and flowers, that support regional biodiversity too.

Hedgelaying involves cultivating and encouraging stems to grow in a specific way, both in direction and density. With careful (and physically demanding) bending and pleaching, the trees are encouraged to weave together, creating the interlocking branches that are impressively impenetrable. It sounds rather simple in theory but the work and understanding involved is demanding.

While Cornish hedgelaying does not yet appear on the Heritage Craft Associations red list of endangered crafts, it is a knowledge that, for all its benefits, is slowly disappearing from the collective mind of our society. Unlike the hedges themselves, which when left unattended for years transform into rows of trees, the skill could easily become one of the many lost arts of our history. It is with pride that we then host our very own Cornish hedgelaying course to help keep this marvellous skill alive within the UK.

In 2021, we will be holding our hedgelaying course on October 9th. The class will be led by our expert hedgelayer, Robbie Ryder, and be taught at our rural skills centre in Sheviock, allowing you to learn everything you need to know about hedgelaying, all while getting hands on and making your own. Cornish hedgelaying is one of the many traditional skills courses we teach and we strive to sustain important countryside craft knowledge, working with communities across the Rame Peninsula to pass these skills on. And, of all the Family Foraging Kitchen courses, two are considered endangered and one critically endangered! 

For more information on our courses, please visit our website. Alternatively, if you have any questions about heritage crafts, then feel free to get in touch by emailing kitchen@familyforagingkitchen.co.uk. We’re always very happy to discuss wild foods and traditional skills!