We have been working at a farm near Crediton this hedge laying season. Steve the farmer has decided to use the Rural Payments land management scheme to his advantage,which pays hedge laying contractors £9.40 per metre. Hedge laying schemes such as these provide landowners with a much needed financial motivation to engage in this traditional management technique. Hedge laying provides local employment for people with these traditional skills, provides firewood for the landowner and creates conditions for nature to flourish in the hedgerow. Hedgehogs, doormice, nesting birds and insects  all benefit from a denser, woven hedge full of berries and blossom. Initially higher light levels allow the seedbank to flourish and re-establish. This year's hedges are a mixture of hawthorn, hazel, blackthorn and elm. Each tree species reacts differently to the act of 'laying', cutting 2/3 into the back of a stem and bending over the remaining 'pleacher' which is woven into a 2' x 2' box section and pinned to the top of the Devon bank with wooden staples or 'crooks'. I personally love the creative labour of choosing which stems will jigsaw and weave together. This creates a dense, ideally stockproof hedge which will define a field's boundaries and remain thick and abundant until the regrowth from the hedge is re-laid in 8-10 years time. Hedges have always been managed in this way, providing a unique habitat in the landscape's broader context.