FOR one man the first ever All-Ireland Hedge Laying Championship, held last weekend near Moneymore, provided the opportunity to shine.
Just six weeks ago the concept of hedge laying was totally new to Gary Larkin from Castledawson, but despite this, he has just been awarded fifth place in the Novice Category of the competition.
“I was offered the opportunity to undertake training in hedge laying and I really enjoyed it,” said Gary.
“The competition was hard but I am delighted to have done so well against people who have been hedge laying for much longer”.
The training course designed to pass on the historic hedge laying skills to local people was organised by the Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership and Network Personnel Ltd as part of the ‘Up for Work’ Employment Programme, which helps people return to work.
“Gary will be able to use this unique skill in his future work.” said Stéphanie Baine, Landscape Officer with the Sperrins Gateway Landscape Partnership.
“We are delighted that Gary has achieved this recognition at a national level so soon after completing the training course”.
Stephanie explained that they are working with local people to help them appreciate the skills and work that goes into how our landscape looks and is managed.
The traditional art of hedge laying, helps to restore and rejuvenate hedges that have lost their mojo when it comes to acting as a stock proof boundary and as cover for birds and wildlife.
The idea behind the first-ever All-Ireland Hedge Laying Competition was to show the world what the perfect hedge should look like, by restoring tired, old hedges to their pristine glory.
Seventeen competitors, novices and contractors battled it out on the hedges of the farm of Paul O’Hagan, Brackagh Farm.
Today, while hedge laying is rarely used, it still has a major role in protecting livestock and the countryside. Hedges are the last refuge of many of the creatures and plants that used to flourish in and around the woodlands and for these to survive the hedgerow has to receive correct management.