The Jerkin and the Hedgerow
Elysium BritannicumThe hedgerows that crisscross the British landscape, line its B-roads and surround its houses perform numerous useful functions — providing privacy, keeping out riffraff, marking boundaries, attracting wildlife, absorbing sounds and forming a natural (and pliant) break from the elements. A fence, by comparison, can only be justified by the impatient.
You can read all about the hedgerow and many other things in the delightful Little History of British Gardening, an 'account of a national obsession', by Jenny Uglow.
The dense, slow-growing yew hedge is naturally perceived as the king of formal hedges, but a privet or mixed hedge of native plants has much to admire. If you will permit me, I can never get used to hedges grown from laurel — I find the leaves too big to form that compact wall of green expected from a hedge, and the shade of green can be somewhat glaring.
Watch good old Dyton in the public information film below (from the BFI archives) showing how to train an unruly hedge, pipe in mouth, by proper laying (or plashing).
Get the Dyton LookHaving watched the video, I'm sure you're now keen to have a bash at hedge laying. If you don't have a hedge yourself, a local volunteer group — or a body like the RSPB — could put you to use in developing your country skills. Who knows, it might open a whole new world of possibilities and get you out of your (assumed) rut, as well as making the landscape more lovely when I drive past.
Obviously, you will need a protective leather jerkin like Dyton, something like the one in the top picture, which is from Bradley's the Shropshire tannery. The tan Heritage Leather Jerkin is handmade at Bradley's tannery and is inspired by gardener Montagu 'Monty' Don. Bradley's say the jerkin will get better with age and I believe them. Built to last, treat it with some kind of leather balm every now and then and you'll be leaving it in your will. If you live in the country, it wouldn't look out of place at your local pub with a tattersall shirt underneath. I'm pretty sure Dyton would be wearing his when ordering a half of bitter and a ploughman's lunch at The Rose and Crown.
You should also think about Bradley's Heritage Anti-Bramble Gauntlets (below) with saddle leather cuffs before you start hacking away. Again I have to agree with Bradley's when they say: 'There may be cheaper gardening gloves on the market, but none with such superb handmade quality, value and durability as these.'
I like to think Dyton would nod his non-verbal approval at a pair of these beauties.