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Craftsman Tony loves to live life on the hedge
Buy this photo » Terry Underwood
WHILE most people would look at a hedge and see a row of cutback trees, a man from Bampton notices the potential for a stunning display.
Tony Wilsdon, 54, has spent years competing in hedgerow competitions across Oxfordshire but felt they were being taken too seriously.
So he set up his own less frantic competition, and last Saturday 10 people visited Glebe Farm in Bampton to take part.
Competitors had four hours to lay the hedge, which was then judged based on its appearance, stacking and binding.
Mr Wilsdon said: “I do quite a few hedgelaying competitions and I find a lot are very competitive and very hard work.
“I put this on just to have fun more than anything else.”
He added: “It may look hard work, but hedgelaying is not as difficult as it seems and when you have finished it can be very satisfying.
“You are transforming what can be a rough hedge into something that can look quite stunning if you do it right.”
People from Witney, Bampton and Chipping Norton took part in the competition, but it was won by Aylesbury resident Dean Dyer.
Mr Wilsdon said manual hedgelaying was an important part of hedgerow management and could not be achieved by mechanical devices.
He added: “Hedgerows are absolutely fundamental for wildlife. Last year we had a competition on this hedge and before laying it I carefully counted up the birds nesting in it. There were three nests.
“Now that it is much tighter and lower there are seven nests in the same area. That shows the importance of good hedge management.”
Wychwood Project director Nick Mottram said: “Hedges are important in terms of the landscape, wildlife and also in terms of the history of the area.
“The benefit of laying hedges rather than using mechanical devices is that is stimulates growth to come from the bottom, which creates a nice thick hedge.
“This is ideal space for nesting birds and other creatures, and hedgerows tend to have flora at the bottom you would typically expect in the area.”
He added: “Hedgelaying competitions are fantastic. They raise awareness and give people who enjoy hedgelaying an opportunity to practise their skills.
“The nice thing about Bampton is that it is a very friendly competition. Competitive hedgelaying events are taken very seriously.”
Hedgerows are lines of trees that have been cut and managed to restrict their growth and are often used to keep livestock in place.
There are different styles across the country, but West Oxfordshire mainly uses the Midlands Stack, which is tough and aims to keep cattle in place.