Friday, 21 November 2014

Hedging and ditching


I went to download a photo from my phone just now, and although I can see the picture clearly on the phone screen, the computer says that it is an empty file, so cannot import it. Oh well, I will just have to describe it.

Set back from the country lane, a swathe of verge has been neatly cleared of ragged bushes and small trees in order to create a hedge.

The hedge has been laid in the traditional manner by half cutting through a line of short but reasonably mature hazel, then bending each piece to the left to be interlocked with its neighbour. Because there are still some green leaves left on the wood, the new hedge is already quite dense, and it stretches about 50 feet in both directions, but only about 25 feet can be seen framed in the open window of the passenger door of the Volvo, because I was too lazy to get out of the car to take the photo.

Behind the hedge there is a green field of about 4 acres, and there are a couple of neat-looking houses at the top, fringed with mature trees behind.

Dead centre of the field there is a tree which - although quite tall and mature - still has a sort of fence around it to protect it from deer.  It is about 20 feet high and shaped like a sugar-loaf.

The tree's leaves have turned a vivd rust-red and are the complete complimentary colour to the green of the grass, making the tree startlingly vibrant.

It is as if the whole hedge and verge has been created just to frame the tree, so that it can be appreciated by any passer-by for the week or so that the leaves stay on it.

Normally, a tractor goes up and down this lane for a day, slashing the hedges with a giant and hellishly noisy set of rotating blades, leaving ragged white stumps and chipped wood all over the road, but an old man has moved into the area to show everyone how it could be done, given a little care, attention and time.

On the exposed and wind-swept plateau of Lansdown where that war memorial is, all the boundaries are stone walls - the very same walls which the Civil War troops sheltered behind in the battle. Walls rather than hedges up there, because the thin, hard, brash stone lies conveniently (or inconveniently) about 2 feet from the surface of the fields, and has been ploughed-out and thrown to one side by farmers.

Finally, people are beginning to return to the old ways if they can afford to, but agricultural wages have always been low and property prices have never been higher.

That old man is a real sculptor, and one who works with colour as well.

13 comments:

  1. Nice vignette of rural scenery, Tom. The countryside seems to be empty of rural labourers these days. Unemployment, mechanization and crazy property prices makes the working folk move to the towns.

    I am waiting today for the tractor man to come with his hedge cutter to cut my roadside hedges. Use to cut then myself but it's too dangerous with cars hurtling passed at 80 Kilometres an hour.

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    1. Yes, in the days when estate owners employed the locals, it was their duty to keep them in food right through the fallow Winter months, and hedging and ditching was a necessary job-creation scheme. My main client still retains this attitude and everyone is happy, unlike the industrial farmers.

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  2. The old man isn't Andy Goldsworthy by any chance?

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  3. I'm disappointed that we didn't get to see the photograph !! XXXX

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    1. It might magically appear at some point.

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  4. Your words paint - I can see that tree in my mind (though I also wish to see it on your next post).
    This week I was at a Pasolini-exhibition, and in one interview he bitterly complained how 'consumerism' had destroyed the old Italy (which is true of other countries too - one mall after the other).

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    1. The whole of Europe was euro-ized about 30 years ago. I saw it happen.

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  5. Hedge laying is a work of art. A neighbour of ours is an expert. Each piece of hedge is spliced and woven like you've described. Your words painted a great picture.

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    1. Yet again I have to thank you, Moll. Skilled agricultural people are indispensable, and I am so glad that the old skills continue to be taught in those colleges.

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  6. I'm quite glad the picture wouldn't load....your description is delightful :)

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  7. Ok, I lied about the 25 feet. Look at the image in the mirror though.

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