Flindt on Friday: Hedgecutting – a genuine ‘public good’

There’s nothing like a bit of hedgetrimming to soothe the pre-harvest nerves.

The fabulous hay is sorted, I’d caught up with a bit of sleep, and I’d done the traditional mid-July shop: WD-40, dust masks, black tape and a new broom handle.

Or was it a brush head this year? I’ve forgotten – but it never fails to amaze me how long Grandpa’s old broom keeps on going.

I’d put a couple of litres of Roundup on all the winter feed barley, which is the modern equivalent of thinking it’s fit to combine and going away for a week.

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I’d washed and greased the trailers, and Luke the Combine Wizard had finished the service with an approving nod and a ceremonial slamming shut of the side doors.

So it was time to hitch on to my new hedgetrimmer, swap the saw blades for the flails (and end up stinking of Eau de Tellus – although I’m worth it), fit the window guards, pump up the nearside rear tyre, and trundle round the farm making the roads a bit safer.

Lever diva

As ever, it takes an hour or two to get back into the groove, and find the best combination of engine speed and gear, and which of the chunky, old-fashioned levers does what (I spent a long time finding and buying a machine with no electrics, because both my previous trimmers had only one weak spot: the solenoid system).

After a day or two, it was going superbly, but I couldn’t help compiling a list in my head of extras that would be really handy on the machine.

Yet another trimming head, for instance, with long flails at the ends, and short ones in the middle: perfect for shaping the tops of the hedges into the officially approved non-flat top.

Mind you, a quicker head-changing system would be needed that doesn’t involve an involuntary oil bath.

It would also be handy to have a “fold quickly to transport/return to last cutting position” set of buttons for when you meet someone on the narrow, sunken Hampshire lanes who just can’t wait.

Although it would need a complicated electrical system, and utter reliability to avoid the arm suddenly swinging in/out spontaneously. Maybe I’ll stick with cables.

Glutton for buttons

Which is why the most useful thing would be a message board – or maybe two, one on the front of the tractor, one mounted on the back.

And they would have a series of pre-programmed messages, available for instant display at the press of a button.

Choose button 1 for “Please be patient; there’s a passing place ahead!”. Button 2: “You’re too close – back off a bit!” Button 3: “Instructions for finding reverse gear will be available in your Audi handbook.” Button 4: “Oi! You in the white X5! Do you really think 70mph is suitable for these lanes?”

Button 5: “Yes, we are allowed to trim roadsides this time of year!” Press button 5 again for: “Oh yes we are; H&S trumps Countryfile viewers!”

Button 6 is my favourite: “Yes, it does look better when done little and often, and whatever lives in the hedge is practically undisturbed as the flails fly effortlessly through the soft regrowth from last time we did it!” – but that might need an extra-large board.

And Button 7 is always handy when spotting a justifiably angry cyclist with his bike upside-down, wrestling with an inner tube: “Sorry! I was going to sweep the road when I’ve finished, but the broom’s knackered: it needs a new head!”

Button 8, of course, for “new handle”. Or is it the other way round?