A Guide to Garden Fencing

  in  The Garden
Whether it's keeping intruders out, or pets and children in, fencing has long been viewed as an essential feature of British gardens. In 1856, celebrated lumber baron, Henry Cleveland, declared that 'though the fence ranks among the minor matters of building, it is far from being unimportant. Without it no residence can be properly protected, or regarded as complete. Its style and condition often indicate, unmistakably, the taste and habits of the owner.'

At its most basic a fence is a barrier - most often used to delineate the line between public and private space. It is, however, up to homeowners to decide whether to make these barriers overt, or to subtly blend them into the landscape of their garden, for instance by growing espaliered trees on them.

Materials
Historically, the ultimate fence was a hedge. Nowadays, wood is by far the most popular material used. Other options include UPVC, which is also known as vinyl. This is a durable and relatively maintenance-free material, though it can look a little homogenized. Metal fences are popular for commercial properties and those with security concerns. Their installation and upkeep may require the use of a welder.

Types of Fence
Aesthetic and economic considerations are important when deciding on a particular type of fence. Close-board fencing consists of thick vertical panelling forming a solid 'wall'. This provides complete privacy, though it can be relatively expensive. A cheaper version of close-board fencing is the style that consists of horizontally overlapping boards.

Lattice or slatted fences allow light through, creating a more open-space impression. Picket fences are most often associated with the traditional cottage gardens, where they are used to accent the cottage by providing a partial view of the garden.

Boundary Law
Before erecting or replacing a fence, it's worth obtaining a copy of the property's Title Deeds as registered at HM Land Registry. These are available for a small fee from the HM Land Registry website.

The 'T" shaped marks on the plan point in the direction of the owner tasked with maintaining the fence. If the deeds don't indicate responsibility for a fence, then the law usually presumes that the owner on the side containing the fence's posts or struts is responsible for its upkeep.

Always discuss any new plans for fencing with neighbours before starting construction. This can prevent future boundary disputes. Custom dictates that the fence posts are placed entirely on the erector's own land.

Fitting a Fence
Most people's first attempt at erecting a fence involves buying panels of overlap-style wooden fencing from a hardware store and concreting the fence posts into the ground. A nail gun is useful for fixing the fence panels to the posts. Caps can be fitted to the posts and the resulting structure should be coated with a good quality wood preservative.