Episode 277: The shrub beds that punctuate the eastern and northern (lower) edges of the lawns are inevitably attractive play areas for children, but the result is that the smaller shrubs and bulbs are trampled and the larger ones progressively isolated and reduced. They will vanish altogether unless they are protected.

We could not, and would not wish to, erect the sort of fences that would prevent incursion onto the shrub beds. Instead, we erect modest barriers that we hope will discourage such incursions, by acting as a sign that these areas are different and separate from the areas of more general access.

We have previously tried rope and post barriers that were regularly cut and removed. A little over two years ago, we tried replacing these with some very attractive willow-weaves donated and built by local ‘willow wizard’, Richard Vidal. These were stripped bare during the pandemic, a period when the gardens were used (rather than visited) even more than normal, by many less sensitive to the need to preserve them.

The latest idea is similar, but to use rather more robust materials to form fences that can be repaired if necessary. In mid-December a few of us joined the Forest Club event, led by Stephen Stockbridge, that is regularly held in Lesnes Abbey Woods (https://www.creativenature.info/workshops/p/volunteer-days-at-lesnes-abbey-woods). We were there to collect materials for a trial fence. This was an entertaining morning, partly because we spent as much time establishing the ‘camp’, making a fire and then the tea, as in collecting the needed hazel posts and whips. However, when we came to make the fence, we realised we needed to collect much more material – and more volunteers to help us do it.

Splitting the logs
Splitting logs for the fire
coaxing fire from flint and steel
fire, tea (and mulled wine)

On 15 Jan 2022, rather more of us gathered in the gardens to learn from Stephen how to turn these materials into an experimental fence.

Driving in the posts
Beginning the weaving

The (nearly) finished result

The object of the experiment was (a) to see whether the result would be robust and attractive enough for the gardens, and (b) to get some idea of the time, work and materials required.

As to (b), we found it took a fair amount of time and work (although it may become swifter and easier if we become more practised at it), and a LOT of materials. The materials we had collected were barely enough to start. Fortunately, Stephen had brought some more. It was nearly enough to complete a fence around just one of the shrub beds. The window for collecting and using the coppiced wood that we used is fairly narrow: about three months in winter. If we decide to continue this around the other shrub beds it will take two or three years to complete.

As to (a), we were pleased with the look of the fence, but we look forward to hearing other reactions (email us at friendsofmycenaegardens@gmail.com). Whether it is robust enough to survive predation remains to be seen. One advantage of this system is that it should be possible to repair moderate damage as it arises, by using other cuttings.

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