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Dead hedges

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Postby Kentish Man » Tue Dec 22, 2009 11:27 pm

I'm slowly reading my way through the BTCV Hedging book ( and this may be answered in the sections I've yet to read, but I'm thinking ahead to a project I'd like to do once I eventually get some land and it involves using dead hedges as a temporary structure for privacy whilst a new hedge is layed. My question is, how long does a dead hedge last for? I'm thinking I'd like to pile it up to maybe 5-6 foot high with stakes at intervals and just wondered how long it is likely to last before it breaks down. Could a newly planted hedge be incorporated in with it somehow? Any ideas?

Kentish Man
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Postby RichardKing » Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:40 am

I built a 50 yard long dead hedge about 18 months ago to hinder thieves felling & removing trees. I did not stake it, but laid brash about three foot high, then stretched 2 strands of barbed wire along it before covering with a another three foot of brash. It seems to slowly subside in parts, but every time I am down there I reinforce it by stuffing a few more branches in so it could last a long time. Like you I am thinking of planting directly into it with cuttings of Hazel & Goat Willow, from nearby trees.


Interestingly there is cryptic medieval inscription set into the floor before the high altar of Westminster Abbey which gives the life of a (dead) hedge as three years. By further multiplication with other lives it can be decoded it to derive the date of the end of the universe

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Postby Twybill » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:10 pm

I don't pile the brash to make a dead hedge. I find it makes a stronger hedge to build one by feeding the stems in.

I first of all pile all the cut stems with tails together, in separate piles small enough to pick up by the tails and drag to the next section of hedge. I say this because some helpers just pile branches in a great heap and make them difficult to move. Each cut stem has the lower 2 or 3 foot cleaned of twigs and side branches. Start by laying stems on the ground and then feeding the next on top by pushing the clear stem through to the ground. All these are done at a low angle and it doesn't take long to make a long line. You can then feed from the other end by laying the stems in the opposite direction, again push the clear 'tail' through all the other stems to the ground.

I have built a dead hedge to any height required very quickly and because the stems aren't just piled up but are knitted together it makes for a narrow yet strong barrier. Brambles quickly grow through and make it impenetrable. I have some done 20 years ago and all I do is add to it each year to compensate for the ones that have rotted. I do this with all coppiced stems as the woodland appears 'looked after' and mini dead hedges can make compartments and micro-climates which trap fallen leaves. Birds love them and before long they have deposited seeds and you have young trees appearing.

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Postby Rod Taylor » Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:11 pm

I did much the same as TWYBILL to make an instant barrier to keep deer out of new coppice before errecting a temporary mesh deer fence, which worked very well. This just had cut brash pushed in at a low angle which interlocked well and formed a 5 foot high continuous hedge. Since errection earlier this year the hedge has sagged in several places but is still intact and well used by birds and butterflies. Since the daylight has reached the ground after coppicing, the brambles are sprouting well and I have encouraged these to grow into the hedge to help stabilise it to remain as a permanent feature for the wildlife to make the most of.

I will certainly be deadhedging around the next section of coppice cut, to both help with finding a use for all the brash and give me more time to errect posts and mesh as there seems to be an endless supply of hungry deer looking for a quick meal around our wood.

Rod Taylor
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