Make a Hedge a Home

Permaculture magazine
Thursday, 23rd November 2017

The traditional skills of hedge laying are being brought back in a course at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire.

The Sustainability Centre in Hampshire, UK (home of Permaculture magazine) had been laying hedges since 1997. The groaning of twisted hazel branches and the splitting of green wood was a common sound for the first decade of the 21st century. But, this came to an abrupt end in 2015 when the courses became no longer feasible. A combination of lack of funding and a downturn of interest in this tough yet rewarding rural skill, meant that the Centre could no longer afford to run courses and the hedges on site gradually got taller and more gappy.

Now, in 2018 under the keen tutelage of Les Brannon, the Centre is ready to lay hedges again. Using only traditional hand tools such as billhooks, broad axes and handsaws, course goers from across the county and further afield, are reconnecting with the ancient art of laying a hedge, both for aesthetic reasons and for practical purposes. Hedges that have been laid well are doubtless a thing of beauty, and will continue to look good for many years, most likely outliving us all.

Rural skill courses like this are offered at the Centre, with the aim of promoting the use of sustainable practice as far and wide as possible and thus ensure that skills like hedgerow habitats are treated with the full respect they deserve.


Hedgerows are a beautiful, physical and poignant reminder of the precarious bridge between past and present, man and mammal, and one which we seek to enjoy for many years to come. Hedgerow management plays an enormous role in the conservation of our countryside; providing such valuable habitats for birds, butterflies, plants and many mammals including the elusive dormouse. 

Hedgerows are also highly effective at reducing the amount of chemicals in our food by acting as a physical barrier and absorbing a lot of the polluting fertilisers, pesticides and sediment that can build up, particularly around arable lands. They help to regulate water supply for our crops and reduce the risk of flooding downstream. They are also a community shaper, a living reminder of the local identity and individualism of a particular area; it is estimated that in Devon around one in four of the hedges are over 800 years old.

The Sustainability Centre runs courses in rural and craft skills from their Education Centre set within 55 acres of beautiful woodland and chalk downland traditional of the South Downs landscape. The next Hedgelaying course takes place on 3rd February 2018 and costs £75.00. Please visit for further information and booking.

Want to advertise a course?

Permaculture magazine offers free course listings for Permaculture Design Courses and Introduction to Permaculture Courses (you can make a voluntary donation of £10 per issue for people listing these courses, which in turn helps us help other courses) . Special Courses, like the Hedgelaying course above, can be listed for just £20 + VAT = £24.00 each. Send all courses over in our standard format. ( The deadline for advertising in the next issue of Permaculture magazine, PM95, published 31st January 2018, is Thursday 30th November 2017. Contact [email protected] 

We offer a free recent back issue of Permaculture magazine to everyone attending your courses (all we ask is that you cover the postage) - just let Tony know how many to send, with the full name, address and telephone number.

We are here to support permaculture and specialist skills tutors and venues. If you don’t subscribe to Permaculture magazine please do (and encourage your students, friends and contacts, it makes a huge difference in supporting permaculture worldwide):