We have been looking forward to today!
It’s the day that we get to pull together the work at the Ebford site that we have been clearing for a few days now and get the gates and fencing installed so that the site is secure. It’s a bit of a dull grey Monday for July, but that will probably be good for us given the work that lies ahead.
A bit of background always helps.
The task we took on is to essentially ‘reclaim’ 4 acres of land overlooking the Exe Estuary. It hasn’t been used or attended to for at least the last 10 years according to the client and probably a lot longer than that judging by the size of some of the self-seeded trees!
In places it is 10 feet high in brambles. There is one very narrow path across the land that seems to be used by local dog walkers.
The client wants the site secured and then cleared so that better use can be made of the land. There is no vehicle access because the tack leading to the fields has become inaccessible.
Clearing and securing.
Having spent 4 days on site, we found the old fencing – rotted out. However, it was better news with the two gates that were lying in the undergrowth. With a couple of minor repairs, they will get reused, saving the client about £300.
We set off this morning to collect the necessary materials – 8 x 8 gate posts, round posts and half rounds for the rails. Plus hinge sets of course. Getting the materials hasn’t been as straight forward as it usually would be because of Covid 19 and our usual suppliers not having everything in stock. However, the Fencing Centre at Colyton Raleigh were brilliant and sorted us out.
The downside was having to hump and carry all the materials the last 100 metres or so to the work site. I felt like I had already done a full day of work, just getting all that lot down there!
However, a little after 9 we were all set on site with the timber, concrete, water, gates, hinges, nail gun, post hole shovel, digging bar, level, string line, post rammer and today Bella the very helpful canine assistant as well.
Because the gates were running across the slope on the land, we made sure to have extra long gate posts so the one on the lower side would be high enough to hand the gate on and still be 100% secure. Planning and setting these things out in advance is SO important.
With the primary post position determined, the hand digging began. Soon we were into those beautiful Devon red soils. I’m sure you know why the soil is red in colour. If not, look it up – it is fascinating.
Getting the first post in and set is always a good point to reach. Its position has to be spot on as it will now dictate where the rest of the posts go and the overall look of the finished job.
I mentioned the red soil just now. Bella seemed to particularly like it for some reason. So much so that she went to the effort of soaking herself in a water trough on the site and then rolling in the freshly dug soil! We put it down to frustration from the lockdown – or maybe wanting to look like a fox! Serious blonde to seriously red in an instant.
Fence Style and Purpose
It’s always important to work out that the fence is really there to do and what style in needs to be. In this case, we had advised the client to go with a simple round post and three half rails. It’s essentially agricultural land, there is no intention to keep animals on it, it isn’t there for privacy reasons.
It is there to denote that it is private land to discourage casual walkers from using it as a cut through to get to the cycle track that adjoins the land.
Round post, half round rails fits in perfectly in this rural setting. Looks smart and is inexpensive on materials.
Back to the posts
Having got the second gate post in and set, our next task was to position the round posts. Correct spacing is important and dictated by where you place your first post. We always make sure that we aren’t giving ourselves a headache by suddenly discovering that one of the posts has to go in where there is a large tree stump or other obstruction. (Learned that one from a painful experience!).
Posts set out, it was time for the favourite bit of the day – hand ramming. Had to be done. No way around it as we can’t get any machinery on to the site.
Three hours later and feeling like we had both been to the gym for several hours at a time, Brett and I had the posts in. Perfectly aligned (of course) and now ready for the rails to be put on.
We have always erred on the side of strength and made sure the distance between posts is never stretched for the sake of it. I have seen too many fences fail in less that 5 years where they would likely have been ok if the spacing was a bit closer. For the sake of an extra post or two, it’s never worth it!
Getting the rails up is the fun bit and where it all comes together. Having cut a spacer to use as our template, the rails took well under an hour to get done. Fabulous. Now for the moment of truth.
Hanging the gate
If we have measured correctly, if we have put the posts in the right place, if they are square to each other – it all goes through our minds as we pick the gates up! I’m confident we have it right, but I just want to see it done.
They are spot on! A bit of adjustment to level them up. We did notice that the gates were slightly twisted from lying in the undergrowth for who knows how long, but that is minor and certainly not worth replacing them with new ones at this stage.
All in all a very satisfying days’ work – a secured site and now we can get on and clear the other 3.6 acres of brambles, self-seeded trees and other debris.
Turning this site back into something usable will be very rewarding.