Three weeks ago, the boundary between our garden and neighbour X was marked by a hedge. Except it wasn’t that simple. Their garden is about 30 inches lower than ours and the hedge in question sat atop a soil bank that from our side was about 30 inches high and from hers was twice that. On our side the soil had settled to its angle of repose, on theirs they had fought against it doing so, trying to maintain a near vertical wall of bare soil. Sometime around Christmas neighbour X engaged me in conversation and asked if I was up for replacing the bank and hedge with a fence.
The hedge had suffered badly in last year’s hot summer and in the middle, where the bank was at its narrowest, was very thin and a poor screen. It was apparent to me that before long at least part of it was going to collapse, so somewhat reluctantly I agreed. Because of the change of level, the neighbour didn’t want a fence higher than 4 feet, concerned that a six foot fence would look like a prison wall from their side. Nor did they want a solid fence, partly because of the appearance, partly from concerns that it would be more vulnerable to wind than something more porous.
Three weeks ago the landscapers arrived and the hedge and bank began to disappear. I find it difficult to envisage big changes until they actually happen but this was worse than we’d imagined. Neighbour X likes to spend a lot of time sitting in the conservatory at the back of their house and for her it was like the stage curtains were lifted and the stage set was my garden with myself and Sue as the players.
Once the bank was gone, patio slabs were ferried through our garden to replace the slabs at the back of neighbour X’s house, there being no front to back access other than through their house or our garden. The slabbing was carried out. Next came two tons of stone for the retaining wall to hold up our garden. The wall went up surprisingly quickly and they then started on the fence. For a fortnight we had been actors in the spotlights; Act 1 was over and the curtain had come down. Sadly, it then transpired that the new curtain was net rather than the heavy lined set we had before.
The landscapers had gone, having done what they’d been engaged to do. I set about modifying the fence so we felt we had our privacy back. It’s still too short so I relaid the path on our side, taking the level down a little, which helps a little. The next move will be to put up a trellis screen, not on top of the fence but wholly on our side, so we have complete control of it and anything on it.
We haven’t in reality gained an inch of garden but the hedge and bank are gone. It wasn’t dense enough to have been of much value to wildlife and it was a pain to maintain, full of brambles and including blackthorn, hawthorn and pyracantha amongst hazel, beech and sycamore. I therefore have a patch about four feet wide and twenty six feet long, that needs replanting. The soil is what was in the bottom of the hedge bank, pretty much stony subsoil.
I have changed the line of the path, partly because the soil beneath it was better than the bare ground I now have. It also gives me a better line past my apple tree. I would have liked a curve but didn’t want to cut a lot of slabs or leave gaps between them. As it was I had to cut five slabs, a job I dislike. The trellis is due Thursday and will go in between the path and fence.
I have replanted some primroses that were at the foot of the bank but apart from that have bare ground. The fence runs NNW to SSE, it is lower than the hedge, even just after clipping, so casts a shorter afternoon shadow. The soil is poor so I need to sort out the levels and get some organic matter worked in.
And that is the story so far. There will be more chapters to follow but I’m not in a hurry.