DOZENS of drystone wallers and hedge layers competed in a competition to showcase their traditional countryside skills at the weekend.

The event at Ragpathside Farm, Lanchester, was organised by the Tyne Tees Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and the County Durham Hedgerow Partnership - a group set up to tackle the decline in hedgerows and other field boundaries.

Its objectives are to promote management which maximises the wildlife and amenity value of field boundaries, including drystone walls, within the working landscape.

Durham County Council is part of the Hedgerow Partnership and, along with other local sponsors, funded the event. Council Landscape Manager Clare Heaps said: "Encouraging traditional country skills is essential to the continued survival of the county's thousands of miles of hedgerows and drystone walls.

"Hedges now enjoy a degree of protection by law, but the general health of many is declining due to a combination of factors, including excessive trimming. Declining hedges can often be reinvigorated by being laid, so competitions such as this do a fantastic job in keeping these skills alive."

Marian Wilby, Farm Conservation Adviser Tyne Tees FWAG, said: "Drystone walls are a significant feature of large areas of the county, including Lanchester, and an important symbol of our region."