Custodians of the Countryside: Langore Tree Services and the art of hedgelaying
Did you know in Cornwall alone there are around 30,000 miles of hedges, many of which are ancient?
We see them every day on our travels, we pass them on walks, and we don’t even think twice about these natural boundaries that make up so much of our local landscape.
Self-proclaimed ‘hedge nerd’ Jamie Ranson from Langore Tree Services met with Launceston Life during a snowy, cold day in January to tell us more about the importance of hedgerows, which should now be close to thriving with wildflowers and greenery as spring takes over.
Jamie has always felt a close connection to the outdoors. With a farming background in his family, he decided to leave Cornwall and join the Army once he left school, a career that lasted 25 years and allowed him to see the world.
In 2018, he retired and took up training as a tree surgeon, doing the first hedgelaying season free of charge to gain experience. But deciding to go with this new venture alone meant he wanted a unique element to his business as it progressed. With government assistance in hedgerow maintenance, Jamie decided to work on hedgelaying during the winter months, and focus on tree surgery in the warmer seasons. The hedgelaying season falls between September and the end of March, and means the maintained hedges are ready to push up new shoots and flowers come spring.
Normally Jamie and his team lay on average 400-500 metres per season, but at the time of writing he and his team have already laid 1,000 metres and are set to hit 2,000 metres later in the season.
He said: “I had a number of transferable qualities from being in the Army, and I wanted to work outdoors. Even when it’s cold, wet and miserable, you just get on with it - this might be the soldier in me, but I’m also very passionate about the work I do.”
In days of old, a lot of farmer labourers found themselves with little work to do through the winter, so they turned to hedgerow maintenance. Jamie does the same, getting outside in the thick of it with nature to maintain and prepare the continuous lengths of hedge for the spring and summer seasons, benefiting local wildlife while also preserving an ancient rural craft.
Jamie’s business employs a band of local tree surgeons and hedgelayers, who are paid by the metre for the distance they lay, allowing them to be flexible with their work hours and commitments.
Hedgelaying involves the use of chainsaws and the more traditional billhook and axe, and cutting two thirds of the way through the stem of a tree, leaving the outer bark and cambium layer which essentially feeds the tree, then laying and weaving this onto the hedgebank. Come spring, there will be two dozen more epicormic shoots, along with wildflowers such as bluebells, snowdrops and daffodils - you may have already started noticing some popping up where you live!
“Hedges are described as habitat corridors, as well as stockproof barriers,” Jamie said. “You’ll often find animals running through the hedges, such as dormice. I absolutely love working outside. I saw five deer at a location near Holsworthy recently, a robin was hanging out with me at work yesterday and we also found a nest of snoozy bees in another location we were working at.
“It’s always just myself, my dog Bramble, my chainsaw and my packed lunch - and that’s me for the day! There’s not a soul about.”
Jamie and his team mostly work within a ten-mile radius of Launceston, and look forward to another busy year of managing the countryside.
He added: “The landscape has been shaped and maintained in this way for many years, and so we’re continuing this and being custodians of the countryside.”
For more information about Langore Tree Services, go to www.langoretreeservices.co.uk