Hedges, from The Longest Furrow in Cornwall
Callington Heritage Centre

By: Callington Heritage Centre
Added: 02 April 2016

From "The Longest Furrow in Cornwall, A Story of 19th Century Land Reclamation"  by E W Billing we find a section on hedges. This little book holds a wealth of fascinating information.

This book tells the story of land reclamation by the local Coryton Family and the problems overcome as they arose. 

Under the section "The Hedges" are the following facts. Facing stone was available in abundance as a result of the land clearance. Labour was readily available at that time (the end of the 19th century) as mining was in decline and 1,000 labourers would be looking for work from the Great Consuls mine alone as they became redundant.

"These requirements were that the base of the hedge should not be less than 6 feet wide, the height of the stonework to be 4 feet 6 inches, and the top width to be not less than 2 feet 9 inches, finished off with a capping of earth.

The tops of the hedges were to be planted with a mixture of Beech and Thorn and later on it became one of the conditions of tenancy that this top growth should not be allowed to exceed 2 feet in height.

.......At intervals of 50 yards a hole was to be left in the foot of the hedge, suitably capped with large stones, to allow hares to pass from field to field, as it was feared they would be unable to penetrate the thick growth on the hedge tops. It may also have been done to allow the hares a sporting chance at hare coursing time, as the holes were not large enough to allow the greyhounds to pass through"

The hedge builders could work at "piece work" rates of 2 shillings and sixpence (13p) for a yard worked. Unfortunately this yars measured 16.5 feet as against the "normal" yard of 3 feet. This was at a time when the rate for a married agricultural worker was 15 shillings (75p). Some piece workers could improve on this figure and considered that they were on to a good thing! 

In 1976, when this booklet was written theses hedges were still standing with no maintenance required other than trimming the shrubbery capping them.

Of interest is the section on drainage, which tells that the volume of water was collected and used to operate a Hydram. These "rams" were used to a great extent locally to move water around the landscape. 

"A Hydram, properly sited will work for extremely long periods with little or no attention........... everyone who passed that way would pause and listen to hear the rush of water and the regular thud of the diaphragm which indicated all was well"

There was an element of conservation planning that may be worth study.

We feel this booklet is well worth reading.