How can I rejuvenate a privet and hawthorn hedge?

I have a mixed hedge which is about 6 feet high. I think it is privet and hawthorn.
Currently, it is very top heavy in terms of the growth, and it has a lot of bare stems lower down. Please see the photographs.
[image:
http://i.stack.imgur.com/yXDbNl.jpg ]
[image:
http://i.stack.imgur.com/X4AyNl.jpg ]
[image:
http://i.stack.imgur.com/Z5tUGl.jpg ]
I want to try and get the hedge to be bushy all the way down to ground level.
I've read about pruning back hard, which I take means to basically chop the whole thing down to within 12" of the floor.
However, I don't know if this is the right thing to do, especially at this time of year (April). There are buds appearing on the hedge, so I don't know if a hard prune down to ground level at this time of year would kill the hedge.
I've got no gardening experience, so I'm nervous at taking such a drastic step.
Please does anyone have any advice.
--
NW Novice


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On Mon, 1 Apr 2013 19:47:22 +0000, NW Novice

That doesn't look at all like hawthorn, looks like ordinary privet. Yes it can be chopped practially to the ground, and lop off completely the older wood.
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