|Historic area of significance||Cornwall|
|Area currently practised||Cornwall|
|Origin in the UK||Bronze Age|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||11-20 (estimate)
The Guild of Cornish Hedgers has 13 full-time members.
See ‘other information’
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
The Guild of Cornish Hedgers has 7 part-time members
See ‘other information’
|Current no. of trainees||6 (4 with the Guild, 2 with Kerdroya)|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
||21-50 – mainly volunteers working with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Penwith Landscape Partnership|
Cornish hedging is a practice that goes back around 4000 years and is typical to Cornwall.
Cornish hedges create the distinctive character and framework of the Cornish landscape. Placed end to end, they would stretch for about 30,000 miles, and they preserve field patterns that in some places are thousands of years old. They were first used to enclose land for cereal crops and over time informed Cornwall’s traditional and distinctive landscape. They provide vital habitats, wildlife corridors, shelter, shade and sustenance and can help alleviate water and soil run-off.
It is said that a good hedge can last for a hundred years without the need for any repairs. New developments are encouraged to retain existing hedges and create new ones. New road schemes are almost always accompanied by a new Cornish Hedge. Cornish planning authorities have frequently made it a condition of approval of new developments that the site is bounded by newly made Cornish hedges. This positive promotion of these vital landscape, ecological and historical assets requires a workforce that can deliver on the construction and repair of hedges. Cornish Hedging is recognised as a traditional skill that takes time and dedication to learn.
For an extensive archive of resources please visit Cornish Hedges.
Please refer to the Guild’s Code of Good Practice.
There are slight area variations to hedges across Cornwall which often relate to the purpose of the hedge as either a retaining or free-standing hedge.
- Killas (slate) hedges
- Granite hedges
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- Training and recruitment issues: The Guild currently only has 2 trainers and assessors able to deliver the Lantra accredited training courses. One of these trainers is a highly skilled hedger but now in his late seventies. The cost of the 10-day Lantra Intermediate training course which forms the beginning of the craftsperson’s route equates at £1048. This is prohibitive to many young people. There is a lack of training sites across Cornwall for people to train in hedging.
- Market issues: The demand for hedging work is high. The new roadworks projects on the A30 and the link road in St Austell total 25km of hedging alone. Supply of raw materials, allied materials and tools: There is often a lack of local stone, particular to each area, to ensure new build and hedge repairs are kept in keeping with the local character of the landscape.
- Small business issues: There is a lack of awareness in the quality and skill involved in the craft of a Cornish Hedger. A traditionally built hedge takes time, knowledge and money to construct, something developers are often not prepared to add to the cost of construction. This can result in poorly built hedges that do not reflect local character and sometimes last as little as days before they collapse. The Guild has only recently created a directory of working craftsmen/women enabling craftsmen to link together for work, knowing that a common high-quality standard is adhered to. Volunteer time to support the Guild had waned in recent years, but is now supported by a new team of craftsmen/women working together. The data base of Cornish hedgers in the community requires updating and there is a lack of funding to cover this important outreach work.
- Ageing workforce: There is a small collective of young new-comer Guild Craftsmen/women but the historic tradition of handing the skill down through the generations has waned.
- Legislative issues: The Hedgerow Regulations Act 1997 does not protect Cornish Hedges as they are not classed as hedgerows.
- Guild of Cornish Hedgers: This was established in 2002 in response to critical decline in the ancient craft of Cornish hedging. Most of the remaining traditional hedgers were coming toward the end of their active life and were deeply concerned about the poor standard of workmanship in hedging today. The frequent collapse of recently-built hedges, sometimes within weeks of completion, was giving Cornish hedges a bad name and leading to hedge removal and lack of demand for new hedges.
- CREST (Cornwall Rural Education and Skills Trust) is an independent sister organisation working in partnership with the Guild of Cornish Hedgers to deliver Guild Lantra training courses, a Cornish Hedging education programme and conduct Cornish Hedging development work in partnership with other organisations.
- Cornwall Council Hedge Group: The Hedge Group are a group of key personnel from Cornwall Council, AONB, CREST and The National Trust who meet regularly to coordinate supportive work to promote the recognition of hedges in their historic, functional and environmental context.
Craftspeople currently known
- See the Guild of Cornish Hedgers’ directory of guild qualified members.
The Guild of Cornish Hedgers are working towards developing a NVQ Lantra Level 2 in Cornish Hedging Certificate, recognised by CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) and leading to a CSCS card to work on construction sites and for insurance purposes.
Surveys of Cornish Hedgers
A 2009 survey of hedgers identified 134 people working in Cornish Hedging. It is unclear how many of these are still practising and how many are full/part-time. CREST are hoping to carry out more work to follow up these respondents to update these figures.
A survey carried out in 2023 by Cornwall Council had 51 respondents. 15% said that they were working as full-time hedgers, 33% were doing it as part of a wider role and 25% doing it as a hobby or in their own time.
Estimating numbers of makers:
Using the data collected in 2013 we have made some assumptions about the numbers of practitioners hedging today. N.B. These are estimates and further work to update the Guild directory of hedgers is due to be carried out by the Guild of Cornish Hedgers. Of 134 Hedgers identified in 2009, 20% are now likely to be retired or deceased. Of the remaining 108:
- 15% are estimated to be full time (approx. 16)
- 33% are estimated to be hedging as part of a wider role (approx. 35)
- 25% are estimated to be doing it as a hobby or in their spare time (approx. 27)
- AONB Cornish Hedges Education Pack http://www.cornishhedges.co.uk/aonb.htm