Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Why are hedgerows a heroic feature in the landscape?

You may see hedgerows in the landscape when you're out walking, but have you ever wondered about why they are there, and why they are so important?

History of Hedgerows

The first hedgerows appeared when woodlands were cleared to make room for fields and sometimes strips of trees and shrubs were left to make boundaries.  Between 1604 and 1914 Enclosure Acts were enforced, to put boundaries on land to mark out the individual holdings. This transformed the land from open and communal to being separated by planted hedgerows and walls.

Farmers planted rows of trees and shrubs not only to separate and mark out farm and parish boundaries; but also to control the roaming of livestock and to provide them with shelter from poor weather. Popular species planted as hedgerows include hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple, hornbeam, dogwood and dog rose. Other species such hazel, ash and oak are sometimes used.

During the Second World War, the government encouraged the removal of hedgerows to increase field sizes so production of food could be increased and the UK could become self-sufficient. Financial incentives were put in place to encourage removal of hedgerows and new, bigger, more powerful machinery was created which was too big to be used in small fields. Other factors such as changes in farming practices and development has also caused the loss of hedgerows. This resulted in a huge loss in hedgerows throughout the country, and therefore a huge decline in species that relied on them, especially birds and dormice. To find out more about the history of hedgerows go to

Removal of hedgerows is now recognised as having had a negative impact on the landscape, biodiversity and natural flood management and now more planting has started across the country. Government changed their financial incentives from removal to re-planting of hedgerows to try and regain the habitat and increase species populations.

Why do we lay hedges?
Hedgerows that are left unmanaged will grow into a line of trees which makes it a poor habitat for many species, see picture on the right. Small mammals and birds will not use tree lines to nest or shelter as they are too open to predation. Livestock do not get much shelter from a line of trees either, and generally if it is used as a boundary, farmers will end up fencing along the line of trees to make it stock-proof.

 Laying the trees in the hedgerow is the traditional way of managing hedgerows and creating a living stock-proof barrier. By laying a hedge it creates an amazing habitat for a wide range of species from mice, to hedgehogs and birds. It creates a wildlife corridor for species to move throughout the landscape which decreases the chances of disease, population fluctuations, starvation and inbreeding. Hedgerows are also used for nesting sites, food, shelter and hiding from predators. Hedgerows also double up as shelter for stock and reduce wind speeds which helps with reducing erosion of soils.

How do you lay a Hedge?
To be able to lay a hedge, firstly a cut called a pleacher must be made at the base and to one side of the tree depending on which way it is to be laid. All hedgerows are laid up hill, although if it is a hedgerow alongside a road it is always laid in the direction of the traffic.
Using hand tools is the traditional way of hedgelaying. Tools used include an axe and billhook, which are used to create the pleachers. Bow saw, pruning saw and loppers are used to trim the tree back and cut off the left over stump – a feature called a heal. To see pictures of these tools follow this link

This is a picture of the first cut being made to the tree with an axe. This will reduce the thickness of the tree so that it can be laid down to create the hedge, however not so thin that the tree snaps off from the stump. This will leave a section of the tree trunk left behind, which is called a heal which will be cut off once the tree has been laid.

Once the tree has been laid into the hedge, a diagonal cut towards the roots of the tree can be made to smaller branches which stick out too much from the hedge. By doing this it is representing the pleacher cut of the tree trunk and allows the branch to be bent towards the hedge to make the laid hedge thicker and denser so that it is more stock proof.

Professional hedgelayers use chainsaws to lay the hedges as it is quicker and more cost effective. The chainsaw does the same cuts, so this picture is showing the pleacher cut being put into the tree trunk.

This is a picture of the final laid hedge. The lighter coloured parts at the bottom of the tree trunk is the pleacher cut which enables the tree to be laid. Stakes are then put in about every meter on alternate sides, to retain the hedge. The material from the trees is used to give the hedge thickness. Everything in this hedge is still attached to the trees so it creates a living boundary.

Sometimes when hedgelaying, technical cuts such as this 'Z' cut is used to fill up a gap in the hedge. This is not often used but it is a good way of filling the space. A cut is made either side of the trunk shown in the picture on the left. It is then bent backwards and then folded on top of itself – shown in the picture below, to fill in the space but the tree is still being laid in the same direction. The heels of each cut are taken off to neaten it up.

All cuts that are made to the tree, will
encourage the tree to re-grow, and therefore
make the hedge thicker and more stock-proof.

Different styles
There are more than thirty different styles of hedgelaying across the UK. Each style has been developed over many years to cope with the climate of the area, different farming practices and the type of trees and shrubs that grow in the hedge.

The Lancashire & Westmorland hedge style; which is used in the Pendle Area, need to be well maintained to retain both cattle and sheep. Wooden stakes are placed about 18″ apart on alternate sides of the laid hedge with the pleachers (cut stems) layed between at approx 45°. The pleachers are woven around the stakes and the hedge finished to a height of at least 3′ 6”. To find out about other common styles and the pictures of them follow this link 

If Hedgelaying has interested you…
Come along to the Bowland Hedgelaying Grand Prix Competition, on Saturday 2nd March at Cockshotts Farm in Sabden, BB7 9EH.

Come see the hedgelayers in action, join a guided walk around Sabden Valley at 10.30am, get involved in a family friendly nature trail, and have a go at hedgelaying and drystone walling. Refreshments and local stalls available all day!
For more information visit:

Want to get involved in the landscape and join our volunteer group?
The Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership offer a variety of volunteering opportunities at various locations.

·      Want some experience of dry stone walling, archaeology, conservation management or working with schools?
·       Got some spare time this year and love your local landscape?
·        Love sharing your stories and researching about local historic figures?
·       Want to keep fit, learn new skills and assist your local community?

If you answered YES to any of the above then head to our website to find opportunities for you to #GetInvolved

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Why Artists?

By Andy Abbott and Anna Taylor of In-Situ Arts

Now we’re into quarter four with almost a full year of The Gatherings behind us, we’ve been reflecting on our experiences of embedding arts and artists into the various projects that aim to connect people to Pendle Hill.

It’s also a time of reflection for us within In-Situ. We’re both finding our place in the self-organised artist-led-organisation turned Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation with a new permanent home in The Garage at Northlight Mill in Brierfield.

As part of the process we’ve been discussing what it means to embed arts into everyday life, the particularities of Pendle and the immediate area that we’re in, how we connect with diverse audiences, what the proper approach to that is and the pace at which it can be done well. Key to this, with regards to The Gatherings, is ‘Why is it important for artists to work on environment projects?’

Why Artists?

Whilst artists aren’t the only people that can help people connect with the hill, we believe they do have a particular knack for offering fresh perspectives and helping people see things in a new way. We hope that through engaging and working with artists that people who previously didn’t think the hill – or the various activities and projects that make up the project activity - was for them, find a way in.

As an artist led organisation another thing we find that the thing that unites us, and the artists we work with, is a curiosity for people and places. It’s fascinating to learn and understand more about the relationship between the landscape and how this affects daily life of residents be it through their work, leisure or outlook on life.

Being curious involves working in an open-ended way, where the outcome remains responsive and adaptive to what is learned through the process of spending time in a place and with its people. Like a good coach, a good artist working in this way may be wary of looking for what they want to hear or tell people, offering full stops, statements of fact and telling people how its done. Instead they may ask questions, start conversations, notice the unremarkable, or unearth the remarkable in everyday places.

Listening projects

Listening, then, becomes a crucial skill in an embedded arts practice. How well have we done this over our first year? What have we heard and how has it shaped the outcomes of the projects?

Our major commission in year one was for an artist residency alongside the archaeological dig at Malkin Tower. Over the course of the five-week dig Nastassja Simensky and Rebecca Lee recorded the process through photography, sound and video, interviewed and chatted to the archaeologists and students on the dig, explored the landscape and researched local and social histories. Half way through the project they shared the material they’d been gathering through a series of sessions held in libraries and community spaces around the hill to get feedback from local people about what elements stood out or connected with people. Knowing they were going to be working towards a performance of some kind they also offered singing workshops to people interested in engaging with project this way.  The resulting performance was a multilayered ‘micro-opera’ that offered an interpretation of the dig through the perspective of objects, trees, animals and people that either witnessed or took part in it. 

We have also played a part in the Summit Stones commission by supporting artist Henrietta Armstrong. Through working with In-Situ Henri has been able to extend her sculptural practice in an embedded and socially-engaged way.

The twelve stones that she has created to be installed around the trig are the result of conversations with local people around the hill and what it means to them. The way in which the stones will be installed – partially buried with only the top face visible – hopes to create a new folklore and rural/urban myth about their form and function, to be uncovered by archaeologists of the future. 

Also as part of the Summit Works we commissioned artist Alice Withers and designer Ben Holden to create some signs that aimed to inform visitors about the works, but also sparked and captured conversations. Alice posed as a ‘curious tourist’ chatting to people on the hill about what brought them there, capturing their stories and encouraging selfies. 

Local voices and the year ahead.

Although it was the smallest project it is perhaps Alice’s engagements that have best embodied the type of work In-Situ has enabled and practised since its formation in 2012. The project acted as a sounding board for local people and visitors, offering them an ear and, through some of the signs produced from the conversations, a voice visible on the hill.

It quickly and easily generated a plethora of anecdotes and stories that ranged from the informative to the romantic. It also created room for some of the more challenging conversations arising from the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership that we need to acknowledge going into the second year. Some local people have really felt the benefit, and others find that this change is spoiling the rugged natural landscape that they want to spend time in and take a pride in. There are questions around who benefits from the work being done as part of the Landscape Partnership – visitors, locals or both?  

 Going into the second year of the PHLP and The Gatherings strand specifically we want to put this idea of listening and reflecting conversations at the heart of the programme. If our role is to uncover, reveal, strengthen, develop and expand relationships to the hill then how can we better connect and work with local knowledge and skills, including that of artists? What if the hill could listen, or ask questions? What would people say to the hill? What do all of these things mean to people here? Can we be the ears of Pendle? Our first annual Gatherings event in May will be a chance to find out.