DETERMINED hedgelayers battled against strong winds and heavy downpours in an annual contest celebrating the ancient rural craft.

The Durham Hedgelaying Competition, organised by Durham County Council’s Hedgerow Partnership, returned to Woodlands Hall Farm in Knitsley, near Consett, with 18 competitors from across the country.

It sees hedgelayers compete in three classes – open, intermediate and novice – to lay seven meters of hedgerow using traditional techniques in just five hours.

This year, Peter Gibson, from Cumbria, reclaimed his position as overall champion after triumphing in the open class and cutting contest. He last won the competition in 2016.

The competition promotes the benefits of using traditional rural skills for conservation and hedgerow management. Encouraging young people to get involved is another key aim, and organisers were delighted to see the The contest’s youngest entrant, Aiden Hanley, 15, of Cumbria walk away with the Novice Cup and the the Andrew Adams Junior Champion Cup.

Councillor Ossie Johnson, the council’s cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, said: “Hedgelaying is essential to the continued survival of the county’s miles of hedgerows, and competitions such as this do a fantastic job keeping these skills alive.”

Woodlands Hall Farm has been hosting the competition for the last three years and farmer, Neil Hunter, is passionate about traditional techniques.

He said: “When I arrived at the farm almost 30 years ago there wasn’t much wildlife here. I started to replace fences with hedgerows and, as they have matured, I’ve seen more and more birds following the hedge lines, including grey partridges and barn owls.”

Grants are available to carry out field boundary management in County Durham.

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