Age is no barrier to hedgelaying

Eighty-nine-year-old Stan Pinkley. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Eighty-nine-year-old Stan Pinkley. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Thisleyhaugh Farm, near Longhorsley, is home to the Nelless family, who have done a wonderful job in creating a truly organic base for their livestock over the past 15 years.

Local wildlife has also benefitted from the development of natural hedgerows, making this the ideal venue for the North East Hedgelaying Competition 2018.

Eight competitors had turned out for the event and were armed with an assortment of hand tools; axes, hatchets, hedge-knives, no doubt sharpened for the occasion.

The run of hedge chosen was marked in 10m sections, lots were drawn from a sports cap, and at 9am the competition, which would last five hours until 2pm, was under way.

Judging the event was Peter Gibson, currently Lancashire and Westmoreland Association chairman, who started competing at 14, and has entered numerous competitions at national level. He was supreme champion in 2011 and 2013, and plans to enter the national competition this year.

He saw Thisleyhaugh as third event in a warm-up for the national in a fortnight’s time. They’d already competed at Durham and Jedburgh over the weekend.

And it seems that age and distance is no barrier.

Aidan Handley, aged 15, and brother John, 17, had travelled from Kendal, and Aidan confided that he’d started competing aged 12, but had been practising on his father’s farm all his life.

Stan Pinkley, from Durham, has been hedge-laying as a hobby for 15 years, and with a glint in his eye, said it kept him off the streets and out of mischief. He claimed to have been “badgered into it” by friends, but rather enjoyed the camaraderie.

“I’m 89,” he said, “but hard work never did anyone any harm.”