EXPERTS and rising stars in the ancient craft of hedgelaying will lock billhooks at an annual contest aimed at encouraging more people to learn the skill.

The Durham Hedgelaying Competition will return to Woodlands Hall Farm in Knitsley, near Consett, on Friday, October 12.

Now in its 20th year, and its third at Woodlands Hall Farm, the contest is organised by Durham County Council, a member of Durham Hedgerow Partnership, and is free to enter.

Competitors will lay about seven metres of hedgerow using traditional techniques and tools to shape, cut and intertwine the stems.

Rebecca Beeston, the council’s officer, said: “Celebrating and preserving traditional countryside skills is vital.”

It sees competitors battle it out in three classes: open, for anyone who makes a living out of hedgelaying; intermediate, for those who are competent at hedgelaying but do not earn a living from it; and novice, for anyone with some experience.

Ms Beeston said: “Hedgelaying is not only an important part of our heritage but an effective and environmentally friendly way to maintain hedgerows, while providing habitats for wildlife.

“It’s also an impressive sight to behold so I would urge people to come along to watch the action unfold and learn more about the craft and the grants available to carry out field boundary maintenance.”

The competition is supported by Trees Please and precedes the Scottish Hedgelaying Competition on Saturday, October 13, and the North-East Hedgelaying Competition, which takes place in Northumberland the following day.

To find out more about hedgelaying and boundary management, contact the council’s landscaping and arboriculture team on or 03000-267-143.