Rural traditions alive and well at hedgelaying contest near Buckingham

The test of craftsmanship is open to those within a 20-mile radius of Buckingham Parish Church
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Members of the North West Bucks Agricultural Assocation showed rural traditions are alive and well, when they held their annual hedgelaying competition.

Thirteen hedgelayers between the ages of 21 to 80 competed in the match, hosted by Sarah Denne at Hedgerows Farm, in Nash, on Wednesday, November 2.

As a test of their craftsmanship, each hedgelayer had to lay 10 metres of hedge in six and a half hours, which were then judged by local farmers Brian Temple, from Potterspury and Eddie Bullman, from Thornborough.

Champion Sam Underwood with Mayor of Milton Keynes Amanda MarlowChampion Sam Underwood with Mayor of Milton Keynes Amanda Marlow
Champion Sam Underwood with Mayor of Milton Keynes Amanda Marlow

The prizes and cups were presented by Mayor of Milton Keynes, Amanda Marlow.

Champion on the day was Sam Underwood, with second place going to Malcom Hodges and third Paul Blisset. Best Growth prize for last year’s hedge went to Stuart Hamp.Class 2 (Intermediate) winner was Graham Gulliver, second Tom Charge and third Stuart Hamp. Class 3 (Novice) winner was Ben Cross, second Ollie Rose and third Peter Eales. The Veterans class was won by Henry Goodger.

Competition organiser Colin Charge said: “Everybody arrives at about 8am and each plot’s got a number on it and then the numbers are allocated into a hat for each class, and then you draw your number for which plot you get given.

“And then off you go and you’ve got till about 2.30pm to cut your piece of hedge and then the judges come at 3pm and judge it.

Mayor of Milton Keynes Amanda Marlow with competitorsMayor of Milton Keynes Amanda Marlow with competitors
Mayor of Milton Keynes Amanda Marlow with competitors

“It’s a skill but the young people seem to pick it up quite easily. It’s just the finishing of it to make it look nice, and every judge is different, that’s the thing.

"Certain judges look for how the hedge is being cut and laid, some of them like to look at the back of it to see if you’ve made a good back so it stops the animals pushing through.”The good-natured contest, open to anyone within a 20-mile radius of Buckingham Parish Church, is an annual tradition dating back over 50 years.

“Everybody knows everybody and we all get on,” said Colin. "It used to be part of the Buckingham Show. The idea of it was, you represented your farm that you worked for and your boss paid for your to go for the day and represent the farm. But nowadays everybody’s self-employed and they all have to give up a day’s wages and come and cut for a little money.”

Winners receive a cash prize and each competitor gets paid £40 ‘cutting money’ towards their expenses.

The event is held on the first Wednesday of November each year at a different venue, and two farms are currently being considered to host next year’s competition.

"It’s more of a problem finding the hedges to hold the competition than competitors at the present time,” said Colin. “It’s just that very few hedges were planted 25 years ago, and that’s what we’re looking for – something that’s 15 to 20 years old so it’s not too big a job for people, but it’s big enough.”

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