Every year ‘The Beast”, otherwise known as the laurel hedge, strikes fear and trepidation into us as we try to work out how to get to the tops and sides for its annual haircut.  Many ‘Heath Robinson’ mixtures of step ladders, long-arm pruners, chain saws and odd bits and bobs of things to stop us falling into The Beast have been tried and usually failed.   Part of the problem is that it’s on the bank and so there’s no easy place to put a ladder or even a scaffold tower.  So this year we decided that “enough was enough” and it would have to be given a solid prune (that’s not a dried grape, but a good short-back-and-sides).

Here’s what it looked like before we started.

The Beast in all its glory

The Beast in all its glory

The big question was how to do it.  I wanted to take the chain saw to it, the Boss preferred a hand saw.  As it turned out she was right as there was no room to swing a chainsaw, not even a long arm one – although I did manage to use the hedgetrimmer towards the end of operations!

"I can reach it, honestly"

“I can reach it, honestly”

At this stage we were taking it in turns to do the cutting and moving the remains down to the chipper.

An early pile of laurel

Machinery Ancient & Modern

With the tractor and chipper lined up with the trailer, I was ready to go.

Chipped laurel at speed

Chipped laurel at speed

Slowly, but surely we worked our way along the hedge, mainly by climbing in, cutting and throwing out the branches. Difficult work in terms of a) finding a footing, b) getting the right height and c) not bashing the collector in the face!

By lunchtime we were a bit under half way and it looked possible to finish it in one.

It was!

Finished - just

Finished – just

OK, it still needs a bit of levelling up but basically it’s half the size it was and just about OK. Looking at this photo is still needs more off the house end and next winter we’ll make it thinner as well.  We decided that if we did both top and sides at the same time it might suffer a bit too much.

"Skinhead" Laurel

“Skinhead” Laurel

We filled a whole trailer with the chippings – which incidentally smelt uncannily like marzipan! –  which will be used as a trial of composting woodchip.   Watch this space in a year or two.

PS People younger and cleverer than us have pointed out that the smell isn’t marzipan, but cyanide!!  So don’t go putting laurel leaves under your Christmas cake icing instead of the lovely yellow stuff.