Natural Fencing

Natural FencingI suppose fences date back to when our nomad ancestors decided to settle down and grow food rather than chase prey down whilst foraging a few nuts and berries. They kept livestock and wildlife from eating the crops or livestock from vanishing over the hill.

Of course fences serve another important function, they define the land. This bit’s mine and that bit on the other side is your land.

Down in the lowlands the ‘fence’ of choice was the hedge. They take some years to grow and need regular maintenance but, apart from labour, they’re basically free. A well grown and made hedge is stockproof and just as good as a security fence for keeping people out.

Dry Stone Walls

Dry Stone Walls

Dry Stone Walls – Free Materials but what a lot of work!

Once you get to the uplands and moorlands, hedges die away and are replaced by dry stone walls. The raw materials, rocks, were literally just lying in the fields so what’s more natural than to use them for the walls.

Building a decent dry stone wall takes strength and skill. Carting those heavy rocks is hard work but putting them in just the right place is where the skill comes in. Properly done, a dry stone wall will outlive the builder with minimal maintenance but if allowed to fall into disrepair they’re time-consuming to reconstruct.

When you look at a hillside with walls snaking up the side and across, spare a thought for builders who worked so hard and long, picking each stone from the pile and placing it just so.

Slate Sheets

Slate Fencing

Slate Fencing – Notice the Slate Waste at the rear

Here in North Wales we’ve something else apart from rocks – slate. Although the slate industry is all but gone now, the quarry scars on the landscape and waste heaps remain. Often people use sheets of slate connected with wire to create a fence using this free waste material.

The gaps between the slates are actually quite important. They allow the wind to go through. If the fence was solid the pressure on the slates would be higher and it would probably blow over. Allowing wind to go through, albeit slowed, reduces eddies as well.

Norwegian Skigard Fencing

Norwegian Skigard Fencing

Norwegian Skigard Fencing

My Norwegian friend sent me some photos of his fencing. Norway has a lot of trees to say the least. The country is a little larger than Britain but about 40% is forest or woodland. So wood in Norway is a cheap, renewable resource.

Their traditional fencing is called ‘skigard’. Ski is for the lathes of wood that form the body and are shaped and similar to a ski. Gard is as the English guard or protect.

Corner Skigard Fencing

Corner in Close-up of Skigard Fencing

The ‘skis’ are made from spruce which is split by hand using wedges. The upright poles are made from juniper and everything is tied together with willow or similar. No nails, just wood.

The lifespan of a fence like this is between 80 and 120 years! The tall juniper poles will eventually rot in the ground but then you just pull it up, cut off the rotten part and put it down again – that’s the reason why they are so much higher than the skis. Not to mention the fact you can see the fence even in the Norwegian winter with its deep snows.

Skigard Fencing in Norwegian Winter Snow

Skigard Fencing in Norwegian Winter Snow

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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