Hedge laying is addictive

'The Crumblies' are here!

‘The Crumblies’ are here!

I have just had a new experience and it is addictive! This might sound a bit exaggerated when talking about hedge laying but I have caught the bug, off The Crumblies.

I hope to bring you the history of The Crumblies at some point but in broad terms they are a group of volunteers who have reached retirement but who wish to keep active and continue the tradition and skill of hedge laying while offering a public benefit. This in itself is inspirational in our modern times.

I came across them through Brandy Hole Copse and the work they have done to maintain and improve this nature reserve North West of Chichester. Here they manage tree growth and have also laid the Copse hedge beside the B2178.

St Mary's in 1929 with a tidier hedge.
St Mary's in 1929 with a managed hedge.

At about the same time I came across a photograph of the approach to St Mary’s Sennicotts on Chapel Lane. You will see from the black and white photograph a hedge at least under control.

Having discussed the idea with Peter he agreed they would tackle what probably amounted to the most challenging hedge in their history! What’s more they would start on his 80th birthday.

I agreed to help whenever possible and on my first outing I was hooked. We were fortunate to have a beautiful Autumn day and methodically we worked our way along the hedge. Selecting which growth to incorporate  in the new hedge and which bits to cut out. Then carefully cutting it enough to lay down, weaving between the stakes and trimming off the tail. The Crumblies are a great bunch to work with. They have a solid work ethic, they enjoy their work and each other’s company. They were very kind to let me join them and we all got stuck in – although I did keep stopping to take photographs because the finished effect is magical – pure English countryside at its finest: the mark of ‘handmade’ by men who take pride in their work.

I’ve included some photographs below and I will update you as we make progress.

The view of St Mary's from Chapel Lane before work starts.
The view of St Mary's from Chapel Lane before work starts.
The view of St Mary's opening up a little.
The view of St Mary's Sennicotts opening up a little.
Hand made tools - a Yew mallet over 15 years old and going strong.
Hand made tools - a Yew mallet over 15 years old and going strong.
Adding the hazel binders before cutting the tops from the stakes
Adding the hazel binders before cutting the tops from the stakes
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Can you change the time of your ‘constitutional’

This one is for my sister-in-law – the only person who has admitted she reads any of this.

Some people do it whenever the need arises but quite a few people would call themselves ‘regular’ both in frequency and time of day.

Many people don’t mind when. But some are very precious about their regular appointment with the facilites. It is a sacred time of the day and therefore needs to be chosen carefully for optimum peace and quiet.

So is there an ability to choose this time. What if our circumstances change? Can we change ‘our time’?

I do have an interest in the answer to this question but on this occaison it’s not my timing I want to change but someon else’s.

You see the problem comes at the same time every day. Like clockwork I can almost guarantee that halfway through high-teatime, which we are trying to enjoy as a family meal, our youngest daughter has an explosion. The event destroys any enjoyment of our mealtime together. It has to be dealt with and on returning to the table you can guarantee you’ve lost your appetite.

So can it be done? Can you change some else’s timing and if so can someone please tell me how?

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Campaign to give a tax break for domestic PAYE employers.

Before I go any further I need to acknowledge that this is not an issue facing the majority of the population. However if addressed, I believe it could bring benefits to the wider society.

Listed Buildings need labour intensive care.

This concerns the issue of private individuals becoming employers to help them in private affairs and in particular maintaining privately owned Listed Buildings.

Currently the owner of the Listed building or garden earns income on which they pay Income Tax at various rates. If they choose to employ someone to help maintain the building or garden (domestic staff) they then have to pay those employees out of net income (that is left after tax has been paid), and then undertake the same Pay As You Earn administration (collecting the income tax from that employee and paying the employers share of the National Insurance) as would any other employer.

Here’s the issue: any employer running a business is able to set their employment costs against their income to reduce their tax, so why can’t owners of Listed Buildings or for that matter employers of domestic staff (nannies etc), whose employees are paid through the PAYE scheme get some sort of tax relief on their income for doing so.

It would be easy to administer because HMRC has records of both the employers and employees tax affairs. It should only work where employees are paid through PAYE. There are loads of benefits:

  1. This would encourage employment by making it more affordable for private individuals to employ staff in domestic, childcare, gardening, and property maintenance jobs.
  2. It would encourage employers to pay staff currently paid cash in hand into the PAYE system and probably increase tax revenues.
  3. It would be easy to administer as HMRC has all the records it needs to cross check claims by private employers.
  4. By encouraging individuals to employ domestic staff it would free up their time and encourage them to spend in the local economy.
  5. Owners of our heritage would be able to employ sufficient help to make it possible and desirable to open their properties/gardens on an occasional basis to the public.
  6. With more manpower employed in upkeep our heritage stock would be kept in a better state of repair.

There is a reason for mentioning the listed building element. Presumably the main case against such tax relief is that it lines the pockets of the already wealthy and is an unfair tax break. The Listed Building element addresses this. Owners of Listed Buildings provide a service of national benefit by maintaining the Nation’s Cultural Heritage. While they often get the benefit of living in attractive properties they are essentially unpaid private guardians, restricted in what they can do to reduce the costly maintenance of their properties because as a Nation we want them to preserve our past. As they get little or no financial assistance for this role and their properties usually require the most labour intensive form of upkeep it would appear not that unfair to assist them in the labour element of looking after our heritage.

And this is the shift in thinking proposed. To see this role in the same light as small businesses. To see the owners of these Listed Buildings as operating in the business of maintaining our heritage. So just as every other business in the country gets a tax break for encouraging employment and employing individuals to help it go about its business, then these private individuals should be given similar treatment and some form of reduction in their income tax liability where that income is going towards the employment of individuals to assist them in the maintenance of our Heritage.

Your comments would be appreciated in this debate.

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A little trip to Spain

El Bulli
El Bulli

So it was totally over indulgent and there are lots of sensible reasons why one shouldn’t have gone but from the moment Mr Arengo-Jones left the message on my phone I knew it wasn’t an opportunity you miss.

The next thing we knew there was a surreal moment of the four of us meeting at Heathrow and heading to Barcelona for a meal at El Bulli. The levels of expectation and excitment could only have meant we would be dissapointed by at least some of the 35 courses, or the atmosphere or the service, or something. So it is with some astonishment that I can say that every course exceeded almost anything I can remember ever eating.

The most usual question is, “what was on the menu?” Yet that is the wrong question because whatever the course was called the description doesn’t even begin to take you close to the experience. I have attached the menu here but I can guarantee it doesn’t tell you much. Which is why I put together this short video. It doesn’t describe the food because the words again are not sufficient but it gives you an idea of the atmosphere. As Olly said beforehand, “fizzing!”, and an experience not to be missed … whatever it takes

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