Man has woven hazel and willow wattles for thousands of years in both hurdle and continuous form. The ability of these materials to bend, weave, twist, whilst being durable, has been employed for many uses from Neolithic track-ways, Iron Age dwellings and Medieval livestock fencing. The British Army used hundreds of hazel hurdles during both world wars to shore-up trenches on the front line and also build tracks along boggy terrain.
By far the most popular use for the hurdle since the middle ages was the containment of the millions of sheep throughout England. Split (riven) hazel panels, 4' 6" x 3', were light enough to be carried four at a time to wherever sheep were grazed, sheared or dipped and offered protection from wind and rain during the lambing season. During the heyday of "arable sheep" farming in the late 1800's, demand for hurdles reached their peak and many villages, in the southern counties, could muster several hurdle-makers.
By the mid 20th century wattle hurdles were largely replaced by manufactured steel hurdles, lambing sheds, wire mesh and electric fencing. However the industry has seen a resurgence in recent years with the demand for attractive, sustainable garden screens, fencing and other products. Most reputable hurdle-makers today will have a long list of orders by late spring.
"We are delighted with the fence and much enjoyed watching the creation and having you around." Clare, Wetheringsett
"Thank you very much for the hurdles. We couldn't have made the set look authentic without them!" Uden Associates Television & Film Production. The hurdles were used on on the set of Channel Four's 1000 AD