Hedge of insanity

It’s a sure sign that summer’s ending when the farmers start trimming the hedges. As a cyclist, I’m always on the lookout, since they usually leave the roads strewn with thorns that can effortlessly penetrate even the toughest tyres.
But yesterday, I came across one stretch of hedge that stopped me in my tracks for aesthetic, rather than mechanical reasons. The tractor-mounted rotary flail isn’t the most delicate of tools at the best of times, but this one had hacked the poor hedge in the most brutal fashion. I know time is money, but surely there’s room in our modern world for old-fashioned craftsmanship that blends function with form.


This quiet lane
Is a crime scene.
There’s evidence
Of violence;
A frenzied attack
By a maniac
Armed with a heavy, blunt instrument.
Torn, slashed skin,
Mutilated limbs,
The dark hedge splashed
With bone-white shards;
Smashed fingers grope in vain
To hold onto a life
Brutally cut
No job for a detective, this;
Send for the journeyman
With his billhook and slasher,
Flagon of cider
Long leather gloves
Weaver’s quick fingers
And artist’s eye.
Each sapling and side-shoot
Branch, twig and tendril
Sized up, selected
Then cut out or cunningly
Laced in with withies and strong stakes.
Each new year’s growth
Adding shelter and strength,
Thickening, deepening,
Filling with flowers, heavy with fruit
And ringing with voices of birds.
Not this shattered wilderness
We make with our chasing
Of Quicker and Cheaper and Now.