A new start after 60: ‘I took up hedgelaying at 65 and discovered a hidden connection with my father’

After a career in education, David Booker learned to ‘pleach’ – the ancient art of training hedges into secure boundaries. Then he found out his father had done the same work many years ago

Last November, when David Booker picked up a billhook for the first time, it felt uncannily familiar. The tool, a sort of stubby sickle, fitted so comfortably in his hand that he thought his handling of it “was there in me, ready and waiting to come out”. Now the tool has helped him to find a new sort of living – and unearthed a hidden connection with his father.

Booker was 65 when he enrolled on a short course in hedgelaying, or “pleaching” – the ancient rural art of cutting and training hedges into secure boundaries. He now lives in the Clun valley in Shropshire, where he pleaches the hedges of neighbouring farmers and friends. Each is a fresh conundrum.

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