Laying Hedges — Plessage des Haies — in Normandy

Une Journée de démonstration — La Voix Le Bocage (03-12-2004)
Une Journée de démonstration — Ouest-France (28-11-2004)

Par Liliane Val


Plessage des haies

Une journée de démonstration

Dimanche 28 novembre, la groupe ornithologique Norman a organisé une journée de démonstration de plessage des haies chez Sarah et Christopher Long, deux Anglais, qui sont installés depuis 5 ans à Pontfarcy.

Sur 3 ha de terrain, ils élèvent des moutons de race 'Dorset Horn'. Les brebis peuvent faire deux portées par an. Chrisropher et Sarah utilisent la technique de plessage dans leurs champs, technique très utilisée en Angleterre.

C'est pourquoi, Jean Collette, ornithologue de renom, leur avait demandé de faire une démonstration chez eux.

Jean Collette a expliqué ce qu'est le plessage: "Le plessage est une technique ancienne. Cette pratique permet de renforcer la texture de la haie de façon à la render plus imperméable au passage des animaux (ou des hommes). En pratique, on oblige des tiges choisies dans la haie existante à passer de la position verticale à l'horizontale. 'Plesser' c'est donc plier une branche".

En Normandie on trouve encore la trace de ces grosses branches horizontals dans certaines vieilles haies. Selon les paies, les régions... le plessage revêt divers aspects. Il peut concerner l'ensemble de la haie ou seulement certains éléments. L'entretien peut consister en une remise en jeu de l'ensemble des tiges, ou au contraire, n'être qu'une série de retouches successives.

La haie bocagère sert de refuge aux oiseaux. La nourriture disponible dépend de la richesse de la haie en variété de plantes. Chaque espèce a ses exigencies quant à la hauteur du site qui abrite le nid.

Après ces premières explications, les participants sont sortis sur le domaine de Sarah et Christopher Long qui utilisent le plessage des haies. Ils ont pu voir des examples pratiques dans les haies de la propriété.

Une Journée de démonstration — Ouest-France (28-11-2004)

Par Delphine Letainturier


Le plessage des haies avec le groupe ornithologique

On Sunday the Normandy ornithological society [GONm] held a gathering at the home of Sarah and Christopher Long. The meeting's organiser was Jean Collette.

"Hedge-laying," Jean Collette explained, "is an ancient technique: it was practised by the Gauls. This method of 'cultivating' hedgerows makes them thicker and more impermeable to man and beast." Jean Collette then explained the method during the day-long visit organised by the ornithological society. "Hedge-laying involves the bending [and weaving] of branches." Hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel are particularly effective in these hedges. In the course of maintaining the hedge, the surplus is harvested but "all the same, the aim is to create an effective barrier against domestic animals, the saplings being laid and interwoven as low as possible".

The 'bocage' hedgerows provide shelter for birds and supply some of their feed, thanks in particular to berries (e.g. rose hips). A sufficiently dense hedge can be measured by the number of nesting birds. Their value to farmers is the vast quantities of pest larvae that they consume.

After hearing the theory, about fifteen ornitholgists went on to examine the hedge-laying ['plessage'] achieved by Christopher and Sarah. They have lived in Pont-Farcy for five years where they breed Dorset Horn sheep on three hectares.

N.B. The vital element in traditional hedge-laying is that while most of the hedge is cut for fire-wood, some young saplings (at least 2 - 3 metres in height) are specifically selected to be 'laid' horizontally at heights of around 20cms, 40cms and 60cms above ground level. However, it's very important that these saplings (seldom more than 3 - 6 cms in diameter) are chopped with a hatchet through about half of their thickness before being bent almost horizontally, interwoven into the existing hedge, and then tied into position with a naturally degradable twine. The effect of the cutting is an entirely natural acceleration in growth. This prodigious vertical re-growth, from the three horizontal 'laid' levels, produces a thick and impenetrable hedge. But remember that the sap needs to rise: so be sure that the tips of the 'laid' saplings are at least slightly higher than the 'cut' ends. When choosing suitable saplings for laying, bear in mind that a combination of species is ideal: e.g. ash is fast growing and produces excellent firewood; holly is ever-green and provides food for birds; hazel is ubiquitous, fast-growing and produces good kindling; while white-thorn and blackthorn are quite impenetrable and their berries feed birds (and humans in the form of sloe gin). We find that elm can be laid in hedges too, thereby resisting the ravages of Dutch elm disease. And there are many other hedgerow varieties which can be 'laid' successfully. An 'ideal' laid hedge would be at least 1 - 2 metres in width and at least 2 - 3 metres in height — C.A.L.

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