CRAFTSMEN at all levels of skill are preparing some of Exmoor's hedgerows to take part in the moor's annual hedgelaying competition.
Hedgelayers will be out soon judging the finest examples of work among the moor's fields and valleys.
They will be looking for how well farmers and contractors have cut and layered the mixed species of hedge trees on banks which date back to medieval times and form the typical boundaries in Exmoor.
The hedges offer shelter and boundaries for livestock and crops, but also home for all kinds of wildlife, supporting plants, insects, birds and small mammals.
Higher up on land beside and within the moor are earth and stone faced beech hedgebanks usually surrounding large, straight sided fields.
In a national context, such hedges growing on a stone faced or earth bank, are comparatively rare.
Sympathetic management is the key to a healthy, stockproof hedge where over trimming is considered as detrimental as neglect.
Generations of farmers have managed the hedgebanks by regular laying to conserve them as stockproof features.
Exmoor National Park Authority offers prizes for open and novice classes for the best examples of hedge cutting and growth.
The 2013/14 Exmoor Hedge Competition, sponsored by the Exmoor Trust, is aimed at landowners, managers and contractors who can enter hedges which must be within Exmoor National Park and have been laid during the winter of 2013/14.
There are two classes, "Open" and "Novice" and the winner of each class will receive £200, second place £100 and third place £50.
The judges include previous open class winners together with members of the Devon and Somerset Hedge Groups.
National park conservation officer Heather Harley said: "The long wet winter of last year made conditions difficult, but a considerable transformation has occurred along lanes and field edges as once shady, outgrown hedges are cut and laid.
For further information and entry forms call 01398 323665 or email hjharley@exmoor-natio nalpark.gov.uk.