Farming column with Sam Walton

This is what a hedge left for two years looks like.
This is what a hedge left for two years looks like.

Now that festivities are over and the majority of people are back down to earth, livestock farms are still just as busy, but there is these days a bit of a lull on an arable farm without livestock.

Years ago, men would spend most of the time in winter either cutting or laying hedges with a slasher and a bill hook, also shovelling out dykes with a sludge tool, a long-handled wooden spade like tool with a steel cap.

This hedge has been nicely trimmed. Which one looks best?

This hedge has been nicely trimmed. Which one looks best?

Hedges and dykes were in those days well maintained and most hedges would be stock proof as there was no such thing as electric fences.

Of course barbed wire has been around for a long while, but if care is not taken then it can cause nasty gashes on both man and livestock.

With the modern environmental schemes on farms we are now supposed to only cut hedges every two or three years and that creates a problem in as much as hedges tend to grow upwards.

They become more open at the bottom, and apart from that, if you leave a hedge two years without cutting, it costs more than twice as much to cut when you do try to trim it back.

The reason for leaving the hedges is supposed to be so as small birds can nest safely without the predator birds being able to get access to the nest.

Is this working?

Not always despite what the do-gooders think, I have seen hawks delving into hedges despite the extra growth. If the hedge is trimmed every year, it is certainly close and tight.

I suppose what I am saying is that like a lot of other things, there are arguments both ways and some people can make a case for black being white!

Nowadays, mechanical hedge cutters and ditchers do the work in no time at all, whereas years ago it would take half a dozen men three months, hence the state the hedges are now in.