Hedge-cutting competitions have been taking place in the Cottesmore country for over one hundred years. In what follows, George Morley of Teigh, a committee member, describes their history and aims.
Hedge-cutting competitions in Rutland began in 1898 under the auspices of the Rutland Agricultural Society. The first competition took place on Friday December 2nd in a field owned by Mr William Gore Marshall between Lower Hambleton and Edith Weston. There were ten competitors who were each required to cut and lay 11 yards (half a chain), and the judges were Mr J M Northen of Thorpe-by -Water and Mr George Freestone of Kilthorpe. The first prize was 3 sovereigns, second 2 sovereigns and third 1 sovereign!
These one-day competitions continued to be run by the Agricultural Society along with ploughing matches until 1925 when a sub-committee of the Cottesmore Hunt took over the running of both the ploughing and hedge-cutting competitions. The first hedge-cutting competition organised by the Society was held at Braunston on February 10th 1926 on land farmed by Mr H Clarke and Mr H Freeman. In 1930 the competition was again held at Braunston when it attracted no less than ninety competitors! Also that year an 'on the farm' competition was held with a first prize of £20 and it was said that over 31 miles of hedge was laid in the Cottesmore country that year. The annual event was abandoned in 1939 until after the War. The Society then resumed with a ploughing match at Ashwell in 1946 with the next hedge-cutting function taking place in March 1948 at the Stud Farm at Barleythorpe on Mr R W Wright's land.
The one-day competitions continued until 1973 when it was decided that, as it became more difficult to find sufficient lengths of hedge on one site and the cutters found it harder to be away from farms at busy times of the year, the form of the competition should be changed. Thus the present style of event came about whereby competitors are able to cut and lay lengths of hedge (3 chains or 66 yards minimum) throughout the winter months provided that they are completed by mid-April. Two judges are then invited from other Hunt countries, and usually over thirty pieces of cutting are judged each year.