The All-Ireland Hedge Laying Championships are set to place in Co. Down on Saturday (October 7).

This year’s championships are being hosted at Millbank Farm in Killinchy, continuing the tradition of holding the event at a working farm.

The championship starts at 9:00a.m, and continues to approximately 3:30p.m, with prize-giving at 4:00p.m.

“Our last hedge laying championships were in 2021, so the anticipation for this event has been building for over two years,” said Katie Smirnova, campaigns officer at Hedgerows Ireland.

Smirnova told Agriland: “It’s going to be a huge day out. We have a lovely forecast for the day, and the hedge layers are all geared up.

15 competitors are expected to enter this year’s championships, with the champion from 2021, Clive Lyttle, returning to defend his title.

There are two categories, one for the novice competitors, and one for the professional and contractor competitors.

According to Smirnova, between the two categories, “the only difference is in the length of laying they have to do”.

“They’re working on the same type of hedgerow, it’s just a shorter length versus a longer length,” she said.

All-Ireland Hedge Laying Championships

The All-Ireland Hedge Laying Championships are an opportunity to meet people passionate about hedgerows and learn from experts at work.

Hedge laying itself is a traditional country craft that is experiencing a resurgence as the value of healthy hedgerows for the climate, wildlife and our landscape become more well known.

Hedgerows are human-made features of the Irish countryside planted mostly since the 1,700s and 1,800s.

They have since struggled with neglect and removal. Laying rejuvenates the hedgerow beyond the broadleaf tree species’ natural life span by taking advantage of their ability to regrow after being cut back.

Hedge laying is the art of cutting hedgerow stems partly through near ground level so that they will bend without breaking and remain connected to the roots.

hedge laying
Re-growth on a laid stem Source: Hedgerows Ireland

New growth from the cut stump renews the hedgerow and thickens up the base, which provides better shelter for wildlife.

In addition, when properly maintained hedges provide low maintenance stockproof barriers and can survive indefinitely while creating an important source of carbon sequestration.

Events on the day

Visitors are encourage to attend the event in Co. Down, as it is suitable for all the family, with a range of artists, craftspeople, and other stalls on display.

Artist and sculptor Owen Crawford will be working live on a wood carving piece, while Mícheál of Fiach Rua Timber Crafts, will be demonstrating handle making and axe use.

Further exhibitors include:

  • Hand spinning with Maureen from Hook Yarn Spinner;
  • Musician, storyteller and writer, Willie Drennan;
  • A look into honeybees with Mervyn Warrington from the Killinchy Beekeepers Association;
  • A chance to learn about nature with Ulster Wildlife;
  • Scything and a display of traditional countryside tools with Andy the Scythe Guy;
  • For those keen on machinery, Husqvarna agents, McIlrath and Son, will be present, along with a display of vintage tractors and other machinery.

There will be demonstrations of leatherwork by the Irish Saddler, who will also be stamping keyrings to remember the great work of hedge laying, and will have items for sale.

A showcase of Ireland’s handweaving and spinning heritage will be given by Born In A Field, who, in addition to demonstrations, will have a range of our pure wool handwoven Donegal Tweed items available to purchase.