Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 29 January 2010

Cars come off worst

In Herefordshire you become aware of hedges. A local farmer widened access to a field by extirpating 2 m of hedging. Since he lacked permission he was prosecuted, fined and required to re-instate the chopped-down part. Then he was allowed to apply officially to chop down the re-instated hedge. Which he did, got it, and did.

Many Herefordshire hedges would withstand all but frontal impact from a car. The reason is pleaching. Our estate is traversed by the Withy Brook edged on one side by a line of bushes. These are being pleached and even if I hadn’t reported this for my website, the word itself would have engaged me.

To pleach bushes the trunks are cut by two-thirds to three-quarters of their diameter when sap isn’t doing whatever sap does. The upper part is bent down about 45 degrees forming a messy zig-zag of ravaged wood. Straight 2 m stakes of wood are hammered into the ground at an opposing angle and intertwined with the part-cut trunks. Years later this rural knitting will assume wall-like stiffness. The process is shown in the top photo: note too the gypsy-like tripod for keeping a kettle on the boil and the stake-hammerer who fabricated his own mallet.

MEAN WON'T FLY Broke off the above to answer a man seeking direct-debit contributions to Herefordshire’s Air Ambulance, unsupported by government funds. I asked about his strike rate. Mid-afternoon most knocking goes unanswered. Of those that open their doors, one in ten respond favourably. Herefordians are notoriously tight. Tip with a note rather than coin at a restaurant and jaws drop slackly.
Novel progress 30/1/10. Ch. 13: 2581 words. Chs. 1 - 12: 52,579 words. Comments: Clare's big interview continued.


The Crow said...

"...strike rate..."

Oh, tee-hee!


The Crow said...

Hey! I have a flannel shirt just like his - no kidding; had it on all day yeasterday to keep warm. Exact same pattern!

Really is a small world. Wonder where he got his - bought mine at local JC Penney.

Julia said...

Do they pleach hedges to make them more attractive or is it simply to make them more sturdy?

marja-leena said...

Sounds like serious torture for the poor hedges! Julia's question came to my mind as well.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: The shirt. The nearest J.C. Penney is probably in Newfoundland so it seems unlikely he bought it there. An obvious supplier is a chain called Countrywide Stores which caters for rural people with rural tastes. Apart from pickaxes, mole traps and mournful looking wax-cloth jackets the most memorable experience on offer is the smell: a combination of rat poison and industrial size sacks of dogfood. The plaid shirts are a complete fraud. They look hugger-mugger but turn out to be wispy, cheapjack stuff that loses it shape once you open the box.

Julia: Both. Even when they're still re-knitting themself they're very strong and get stronger. Better still they adopt a basic form which is easy to trim into a straight-sided box shape.

M-L: I see you're as badly informed about horticultural matters as I am. "Cruel to be kind" is the motto. One hacks, saws and chops away and the re-formed growths are a great improvement on what went before. The practice dates back to Roman times.

herhimnbryn said...

Good to see that this rural skill continues. I miss hedges.

Rouchswalwe said...

So one couldn't call it English-style Bonsai exactly.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: If you miss hedges you'd be in danger of OD-ing on them were to visit Herefordshire on your next trip east. Because of the pleaching driving along many country roads is like being in a claustrophobic and unending trough.

RW (sZ): It's not exactly topiary either.

Lucy said...

Though cars may come off worse, it seems to me that to be in a car colliding with one, you might come off less badly than with a brick wall.

We don't get a lot of hedges here really, it cuts down on subsidised poughable land...

Plutarch said...

Hedges are important because they are indication of their own age. You can apparently tell the age of a hedge by the incidence of certain native trees. That tripod is somehow inviting. How about a cup of tea? Yes please!

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: There's more give to the strongest hedge, a less lethal deceleration. The car occupants would suffer less. However the likelihood of a head-on crash is comparatively small because the roads tend to wind a lot and the impact tends to be three-quarters front at worst.

Hedges define much of the British countryside and I recall a TV programme in which the artist David Gentleman, who has done some excellent work decorating the walls of tube stations, showing how easy it is to render hedges as tiny dots of paint and thereby convey distant contours. Easy, that is, when you know how.

Plutarch: Some of Hereford's hedges are 300 years old, the result of decades of what the French call fauchage.

Avus said...

"Pleaching" - nice word. For a perfect description of this operation can I recommend a Kipling short story "Friendly Brook". The first 9 paragraphs cover this wonderfully. See: http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/8320/

As to the collections for good causes. We get 'em here. Some deserving charities I would happily give a tenner to at the door, but cannot be done with the palaver of signing up to a direct debit. I actually proferred said tenner to a collector the other day, but he said he could not take it - so went away empty handed. Thus was the charity the poorer.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: I worried that "pleaching", given its euphonious name, might have appealed to others who play around with English. And you've proved me right. And of course there are the Olde Englyshe connotations as well. One detail I was vouchsafed was that the members of the team wouldn't be at the hedge the following day since they were going on a course for handling power saws. The wrong way round, surely.

I did agree to a direct debit for the Air Ambulance. The monthly sum was £4.34 and I said why not make it £5, simply because it would fit more easily into the spreadsheet I run on my outgoings. Astonishingly this was not possible: the vendor could only tick pre-valued boxes. We live in Procrustian times.

Avus said...

"Procrustian times" - what a perfect description of the situation, BB. Top and tail it to fit the box!