Tessa Waugh meets Tina Bath, who’s been laying hedges in Somerset for 32 years. Photographs by Richard Cannon.

‘There’s nothing better than seeing a nicely laid hedge,’ declares Tina Bath, who’s been laying hedges in Somerset for 32 years. Although Miss Bath had various unskilled jobs when she was young, she didn’t know what she wanted to do until she helped a friend of her father’s to lay a hedge at home.

She enjoyed it so much that she enrolled on a course at the Wrington and Burrington Hedging Society, one of the oldest in the country. ‘The society holds five-week training courses at the beginning of each year and, at the end, everyone is entered into a competition. I was the only woman on the course with 14 men and I won,’ she notes with a chuckle.

Nowadays, Miss Bath works as a hedgelayer from September until the end of April, switching to dry-stone walling in the summer months. ‘It keeps me fit and I love being out in the fresh air,’ she enthuses.

Tina Bath working on hedge near Cheddar in Somerset. ©Richard Cannon/Country Life Picture Library

During her lifetime, there’s been something of a renaissance in hedgelaying. Beyond their practical function as a stock-proof boundary, hedges are now valued as an important habitat for wildlife and Government grants have encouraged landowners to maintain their hedges in the traditional way.

‘There’s a whole food chain contained in a hedge: songbirds, midges and endangered species such as dormice and horseshoe bats, honeysuckle and dog rose,’ explains Miss Bath. ‘That’s what gives me the most satisfaction – knowing that what I do will rejuvenate a hedgerow for the future.’

For more information and to find a local hedgelayer, contact the National Hedgelaying Society (07734 134919; www.hedgelaying.org.uk)