Blot on the Landscape – Close-board Fencing

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Is there any nastier or lazier way to mark a boundary than the ubiquitous close-board fence? The cheapest method of enclosing outside space (and looks it) which is why it is thoughtlessly used everywhere. It often blocks ancient routes for wildlife (contributing to the rapid demise of the hedgehog – they wander around 3km at night) and provides no shelter or food for it, looks bland and uninteresting, quickly becomes shabby, and starts to disintegrate after a few years despite being soaked in chemicals. People will spend a lot of money on a fitted kitchen but begrudge the expense of a native species hedge, or a wall of brick or stone, which would fit in with the local scene and please their neighbours or passers-by. This suburban-looking house in the countryside has a fence to match which runs directly in front of the ground floor windows blocking the view, gives no indication of where the entrance is, and has another metal fence directly in front of it! This is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where new development is supposed to “Conserve and Enhance the Landscape”……..!

The cursed stuff is spreading and falling down everywhere……….

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These are typical street scenes these days. Old hedges have been hidden or ripped out and close-board fencing shoved up because of an obsession with privacy and cheapness, with no consideration of how it all looks to everyone else, and what it does to the environment. Hedges are non existent in new developments and there is seldom enough room or incentive to plant them as gardens are so small. This is a truly dreadful new housing estate in Bracknell, in the south of England. The token bit of greenery is derisory (bottom left).

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An interesting modern house spoilt by an inappropriate and uninteresting fence!

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The Victorians managed their privacy with laurel, privet and hawthorn hedges which also provided security and shelter for wildlife. Luckily some suburban streets are still holding on to their vegetation. Think of the CO2 being absorbed, and how many birds and other creatures are living in these hedges compared to the previous barren boundaries.

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Not a typical close-board fence, but what looks like a row of bed headboards as a bizarre way of enclosing another mediocre new housing estate on the edge of the countryside!

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As a total contrast to all the dismal efforts above, I recently came across the rare sight of this beautifully cut and laid hedge. It is good to know that there are still some people who care enough, and have the skills (or are willing to spend the money), to make such a wonderful looking boundary. Comprising hundreds of willow stakes and an interwoven willow top row, the hedge plants were cut partly through at the bottom and then interwoven through the stakes. When it is first done it looks quite drastic, but as you can see now (in May) the hedge is bursting into life, providing shelter for birds and animals, food for insects, and a barrier to livestock, as well as giving great pleasure to all who pass by it.

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