December on the farm. (2021)

Traditional hedge laying with modern equipment

Richard Fonge writes:

December is a month where the countryside is quiet, with only hedge trimming being done. An annual trim keeps them manageable, so they don’t shade the crops too much, whilst still retaining a field boundary that is environmentally friendly. The enclosure acts of the late eighteenth century brought us the hedge boundary.

The drovers road, called the Welsh lane, has small fields at intervals where stock was rested for the night, and one of those fields can be seen at the Magpie junction. The fields were always triangular, to make it easier to catch stock if need be. The drovers were paid with a promise note, so they didn’t spend their earnings before they got home to the Welsh borders or wherever. This system led to the cheque and the start of banks.

The oldest hedges were the Saxon double hedges, which marked out a Parish boundary. One I have mentioned before is the Stuchbury boundary hedge. Stuchbury is a parish in its own right, joined with Helmdon and Greatworth for administrative purposes. It is so sad that those responsible for HS2 seem to rip out hedges at will, including some of the Saxon hedges. Stuchbury was an Anglo Saxon settlement until it was destroyed by the Danes in the 11th century and became one of the many lost villages of Northamptonshire. Two of the farms, Stuchbury Hall and Stuchbury Lodge are off the Helmdon Rd. Stuchbury Manor has its entrance from the Welsh Lane, by Greatworth Park, whilst the Hall and Lodge are privately owned, Stuchbury Manor is part of the Marston St Lawrence estate, owned prior to 1968 by Balliol College Oxford. Oxford and Cambridge colleges own a lot of land still, with the land from the Moreton road across to Weston being an example.

Finally to return to hedges, that are a boundary, a wildlife habitat and corridor, a source of food and shelter and an obstacle to be jumped by horses, as can be seen on team chase day and hunting.

Richard Fonge.



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