Good fences make good neighbours

· life ·

We fared remarkably well in the very high winds of a couple of weeks ago. In fact, the only casualty was some fencing around our back garden, which was already very rickety. After the winds hit, several of the panels were leaning at crazy angles, but none of the panels themselves were badly damaged.

Our house was built in the mid-1980s (along with two others) on the garden of a nice Victorian cottage a few doors down. Being at the end of the row, we have the good fortune to have a lovely Victorian brick wall as one boundary of our garden. The others are cheap larchlap fencing panels and posts. If we had the money, we'd love to buy some reclaimed bricks and replace the fencing with walls matching the existing one, but it would be very expensive, and we have very little money to spare.

So we decided just to repair the fence as cheaply as we could for now, until we can decide what to do with the boundaries. We bought a few of those 'Met-Post' fencing spikes to reseat the posts, and some clips to fix the panels back on the posts, and started the task yesterday. The first post we removed turned out to be just pushed about 5cm into the soil -- no surprise that it had fallen over, really. However, somebody had left a pan of brick or concrete about 15cm down under the post, which meant that we couldn't drive the post spike into the ground. Sensing that the whole thing was going to be a giant bodge job, we settled for burying the bottom of the post back in the ground, as deep as we could, and compacting the soil back in.

The second post replacement went much more smoothly, and the spike did a good job of holding the post very steady. We fixed one end of the panel, then came to the other end to find that it wouldn't fit in the gap. Of course. Another bit of clip bending and bodging later, we made it secure, if not exactly beautiful. Luckily, both fence runs are behind vegetation, so we were just aiming for a solid boundary rather than something that looks good. We ran out of time (and got too cold) to do the remaining two posts, but we'll tackle those soon.

We're trying to decide what to replace the fence with. I thought that a hedge of some kind would be nice, and we could grow it in front of the existing fence then remove the fence when it was mature. There are already shrubs and trees in front of the fence, so it would have to be something that wouldn't compete (or be shaded out) by the existing plants. Does anyone know of anything suitable? We'd prefer a native species or something that attracts wildlife if possible. I did think about living willow canes, which we could weave into an attractive fence-like structure, but I'm not sure if they'd take too much water from the soil.