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Going back in time to manage a Norwich hedge

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:42 02 July 2010

18th century craft of hedgelaying adopted for hedge in Bowthorpe. Debbie Murray from BTCV

18th century craft of hedgelaying adopted for hedge in Bowthorpe. Debbie Murray from BTCV

Kate Scotter

An 18th century agricultural tradition has been resurrected to help manage a natural area on the outskirts of Norwich.

An 18th century agricultural tradition has been resurrected to help manage a natural area on the outskirts of Norwich.

Norwich City Council's arboricultural team last year held a consultation with people living in Bowthorpe about how to improve a hedgerow in the neighbourhood.

The hedge at Bowthorpe Park, in the west of the city, had been the subject of many discussions as it had become overgrown.

Through the consultation, families chose to the traditional technique of hedgelaying over more modern techniques like 'trimming'. Works on the first stage of the project are now complete.

Imogen Mole, arboricultural officer at the city council, said: “We were really keen to get people in the neighbourhood involved as they are really passionate about the trees.

“There was some great feedback and I think people are really pleased with the outcome, plus it's going to look stunning later in the spring when the shoots come through and really fill out the hedge.”

Hedgelaying involves partially cutting through the hedge stems near ground level, and bending them over to form a natural living fence. The hedge at Bowthorpe Park will be maintained at about two metres high.

Paul Holley, natural areas officer at City Hall, said: “We've had some brilliant support from the National Hedgelaying Society and BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) so I'd really like to say thank you to them for all their help.

“Hedges are such an important part of local wildlife in Norwich; using this technique will really help this area to flourish. I'm looking forward to seeing the full results later in the year.”

All the materials used were bought from Bradfield Woods, an ancient woodland in Suffolk.

While officially documented from the 18th century, hedgelaying appears to date back many centuries before that. In 55BC Julius Caesar recorded the fact that the Nervi tribe in Flanders 'cut into slender trees and bent them over so that many branches came out along the length; they finished this off by inserting brambles and briars, so that these hedges formed a defence like wall'.

For more information about hedgelaying, go to www.hedgelaying.org.uk

Are you helping to improve the area where you live? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk

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