The ancient art making a comeback in Scotland

The ancient craft of hedgelaying has been practiced in Scotland since Celtic times, but the method largely fell out of use after World War II when mechanisation took over the farming scene.

But despite this, the craft is now enjoying something of a revival in the Borders.

Graeme Walker, a Kelso native based in Newton Don, is one of the few practicing hedgelayers in Scotland today.

A blacksmith by trade, Graeme became captivated by the craft when he was living in Herefordshire over a decade ago.

He explains: ‘I went on a training course with The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, but mostly I learned from an established national champion, a man called Mike Wade.’

The hedgelaying process involves cutting nearly all of the way through the stem of the plant close to the base and then laying it down at a 40-degree angle.

Vertical uprights are then used to secure the branches together in a method that Graeme describes as being ‘a bit like basket work’.

‘People think you are destroying the hedge because it looks so brutal,’ Graeme says. However, hedgelaying actually has numerous benefits for both the plant and landowner, including creating a livestock-proof boundary that is also a habitat for wildlife.

The hedgelaying season runs from October to March so Graeme can often be found out in the elements, facing everything the Scottish weather has to offer. Fortunately this is something he relishes.

‘You get some beautiful days when you are hedgelaying, those really crisp, cold winter days when you are on your own with your dog laying a lovely hedge in a beautiful part of Scotland,’ he says.

‘Plus you are doing something that is a legacy, and you are creating something that is going to last and benefit the countryside and landscape for decades to come.’

The Scottish Rural Development Programme runs classes and provides grants for people interested in hedgelaying.

This feature was originally published in 2016.