Hedge laying on the slopes of Slieve Gallion

Hedge on Slieve Gallion. Pic Lawrence Gibson MM34 502con
Hedge on Slieve Gallion. Pic Lawrence Gibson MM34 502con

LOCAL people will be given an opportunity to learn to lay hedges using traditional tools in a course to be held near Draperstown during September.

Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership along with Network Personnel will offer courses in rural skills, including dry stone walling and hedge laying, with experienced craftsmen providing the technical training.

The one-day hedge laying course will be held on Tuesday September 5. Early booking is advisable and priority will be given to those living in the parishes of Ballinascreen, Desertmartin, Kilcronaghan, Desertlyn and Lissan - the Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership project area.

Fiona Bryant, Manager, Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership, said: “The hedgerows of the Sperrins are visually important to the rural landscape. Maintaining them provides a secure barrier for livestock and is important for the wildlife. Hedge laying would have been the traditional method of hedge management at one time.

“It helps to preserve the hedges, encourages new growth and forms a resilient and practical stock-proof barrier. Good hedges are also a home for many species of plants and animals, such as linnets, bats, and butterflies. Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership Scheme we can bring back some of these traditional sights and skills to the area.”

Commenting on the project, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, said: “Hedgerows enhance the unique beauty of our countryside and their conservation and management, in addition to being good farming practice, is essential to creating a sustainable habit for a variety of wildlife. We are delighted to be involved in this project which will raise awareness of the importance of hedgerows and help local people to conserve these natural heritage assets”.

The partnership between Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership and Network personnel is also providing skills training for 12 people through the ‘Up for Work’ scheme part funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund. They are undertaking the one day course on hedge laying as part of a new qualification in Horticulture. Some will go on to undertake an accreditation from the Hedge-laying Association of Ireland.

No previous experience of hedge laying is necessary, but applicants should be aware that it is a physically demanding activity requiring a reasonable level of fitness and mobility. Tools are provided on loan for participants. More details can be obtained from Stéphanie Baine, Tel: (028) 79628750, or e-mail: sperrinsgateway@hotmail.com.

Townland hedges are considered the oldest, most ancient, hedge types in Ireland. They generally have a greater structural diversity, are often associated with a ditch and are species-rich. The majority of hedges in Ireland were planted between 1750 and 1850, and often with mixed species. Over 170 species of trees, shrubs and wildflowers in have been recorded in hedgerows in Northern Ireland.