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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:27 GMT
Ancient country skills revived
Prince Charles hedgelaying
Hedgelaying is largely a forgotten art
A countryside skill which has all but died out is being revived by a university in mid Wales.

Following the success of last year's dry-stone walling course, the University of Wales in Lampeter has turned its attention to hedgelaying.

The ancient art lost its appeal when mechanisation took over in farming more than 50 years ago.

Farmers, tasked with producing more food after World War II, had less time to spend on repairing their hedges.

They were also encouraged to rip up hedges in order to create larger fields.

The university's dry-stone walling course in Brecon was a huge success last year and over subscribed. Four extra courses will run this year to meet demand, said the firm operating it.

Clynfyw Countryside Centre, in north Pembrokeshire, which is running the hedging course, said reforms to the European Common Agricultural Policy and the Tir Gofal farming environmental scheme made skills such as hedgelaying increasingly important.

With the mechanisation of farming during the 1940s and 50s hedges became neglected
Course tutor Ben Gray

Course tutor Ben Grey said: "With health and safety rules we'll have about five or six on the course at one time which will last two days and start next month.

"Farmers, estate workers and those with a general interest in conservation have taken an interest in the course.

"With the mechanisation of farming during the 1940s and 50s hedges became neglected. They require attention every few years and if they're neglected they don't grow back well enough and that's when you get holes."

Mr Grey added: "CAP reforms and Tir Gofal have emphasised the environment and it questions farming practices over the last 50 years.

"Contemporary hedgelaying has altered slightly, but essential it has stayed the same.

"It's vitally important for wildlife that hedges are relayed. We find that wild flowers grow back when hedges are relayed because we disturb the soil.

"We remove the dead wood to make it easier for wildlife to use the hedges as corridors to woodland."

Meanwhile, last year a company inspiring DIY fanatics and builders to sign up for a university course about how to restore period properties said it was over subscribed.

Ty-Mawr Lime, in Brecon, said its classes in old-style skills, in conjunction with the University of Wales, Lampeter, attracted a lot of interest and this year it would run five dry-stone walling courses starting on 26 May.

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