The Donkey Sanctuary’s ecology and conservation team has been using centuries-old methods of managing hedges to protect the donkeys.

As visitors turn off the main road towards the Sidmouth sanctuary, they may notice a hundred or so metres of hedging has been lowered, and on closer inspection will see the hedge stems have been cut and laid down in the same direction. 

Hedge laying is a seasonal job that is carried out over the winter months when birds have finished nesting, and shrubs and trees are dormant. Hand tools are predominantly used to partially cut existing shrubs and small trees through their stems at an angle several inches above the ground. 

The plants are then laid over in the direction of the hedge, weaved together and secured with stakes. This soon encourages new growth to be produced, which regrows from the base to fill the gaps and create a beautiful strong and dense hedge. 

As well as being great for the donkeys, it also provides a vitally important refuge for wildlife, great for growing nuts, berries and nectar for birds, small mammals and insects to eat.