In a brilliant partnership, Tasmanians James Boxhall and Andrew Garner are keeping alive the crafts of traditional English hedge-laying and dry-stone walling

Story By Ken Eastwood

Like two stones that fit perfectly together in a wall, James Boxhall and Andrew Garner are business partners seemingly made for each other. James is a specialist hedge-layer, work primarily done in winter, and Andrew, a former geologist, is an expert dry-stone wall builder, providing the bulk of their summer work. “The variety is good,” Andrew says. “Winter is the time to do the hedging and it’s hard to get access to stones in winter as it’s pretty slippery.” Many of the beautiful colonial properties that they work on have both hedges and dry-stone walls, and they have become proficient in each other’s craft as they restore and build traditional English hawthorn hedges and walls across Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.
James says the aesthetic hedges and walls not only last for generations, but also provide much greater protection for livestock, plants and native animals than wire fences. “Science has shown your mortality rates in sheltered paddocks are 50 percent less than in unsheltered paddocks,” he says. “Everything lives in the hedges … We’ve seen wrens, fantails, blackbirds, insects, lizards, frogs and spiders, the whole works. A lot of the parrot species in Tasmania have come to rely on the berries during the winter – white cockatoos, green rosellas, black cockatoos, galahs.”
The pair met in 2003 when they were working at a historic Tasmanian property alongside Karl Liebscher, a professional hedge layer and waller from Shropshire, England. He taught them many of the finer points of the two trades. “We were lucky that both James and I hit the ground running at his place at this time,” Andrew says. “There’s only so much you can teach yourself.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #92

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2014