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The Hedgelayer

Last week I was out with Michael near Queen Camel. It was a misty morning . Michael was laying a hedge.The ancient hillfort, Cadbury Castle, was blurred in the distance. It was bitterly cold.

above: preliminary oil sketch; below:finished painting 36x46cm

Michael talked about starting out as a foundry worker and how his love of working outdoors began. “I was a late developer” he told me. As he talked he was very carefully eyeing up the next stems in the ramshackle hedge – making decisions about which to cut out, which to save for pea sticks or walking sticks, which to lay. Contemplation and deliberation. Then hacking, chopping, sorting, bending, weaving.

It’s quite something - a privilege - to watch the transformation as the chaotic overgrown thicket metamorphoses into an orderly woven fence. Land art.. Perhaps one of the most ancient of human crafts. “I don’t want it warm for hedgelaying, I get too hot" Michael said, but oh heavens, standing there watching him, my fingers froze until I could sketch no longer. Back home I worked on a painting, bleached colours, quiet. There's anothr painting there too.

P.S. There is a National Hedgelaying Association for anyone interested in courses etc.



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