16 November 2015
A chestnut paling fence
The kitchen garden has always been the heart of the garden at Allt-y-bela and the structure used in its construction has always given the garden a strong sense of identity. The bed layout itself recalls the shapes of beds used during the renaissance and lends the garden a sense of antiquity. The edging boards are made from oak with simple finials at each corner. The crushed stone, which the path is made from, comes from the local quarry. The fencing around the garden consists of oak posts linked by steel bars, forming sections, which were, until a few weeks ago, clad in woven hazel panels.
I think I can safely say that the woven panels were much admired and as they have come towards the end of their lives and started to disintegrate before our eyes, the obvious thing to do would be to replace them with identical duplicates. Personally I loved the old woven panels and was a little worried when Arne told me that he planned to change them for something very different. However, one of the things I have learned from working for Arne is to go with the flow a little bit and to trust him.
Arne's plan was to use chestnut palings; the kind you usually buy as a roll linked together with twisted wire. Arne's plan was a little different however; he wanted to buy the palings individually and wire them on to the steel link bars between the oak posts. At this point I had visions of palisade defenses and ring ditches!
Measuring up for the palings was not particularly reassuring either and when the paling count went above the thousand mark I tried not to listen too closely. Each post was to be wired by hand at three points across its length and so there was inevitably going to be a lot of wiring to do! To source the palings we visited our local friendly woodsman at Moreton Wood who, true to form, cut us exactly the number we needed to the length we needed them. Let the wiring begin!
Luckily after a little internet research we found a wire-twisting tool, which not only saved a lot of work but also no doubt saved our wrists from a very nasty case of repetitive strain injury!
So here we are; plugging away slowly and wiring the new palings to the fence. Fortunately I've had rather a lot of help so far so I can't claim very much credit for how it looks. It has totally changed the shape of the garden visually; while the woven panels seemed to create a long narrow feel to the garden the new palings have widened it back out again. I love the way the light moves across and through the palings and once we have our new gates the garden will be rabbit proof as well.
The really surprising thing for me though is just how contemporary it looks, I think once the weather has worked her magic on it, it will certainly settle down, but right now I'm really enjoying the fresh clean look it has given the garden. We've managed to get just over a half of it complete now and I can't wait to see it finished!
Words: Steve Lannin, Head Gardener at Allt-y-bela
Photographs: Britt Willoughby Dyer