While visiting my mum in our Christmas bubble, I took a walk around her village and was delighted to see this:

I don't mean the black-and-white thatched cottage, delightful as it is. No, I mean the home-made fence. What a wonderful way to recycle what I assume are old branches from the back garden, or at least from somewhere very local. No importing here of fence panels from some Scandinavian or Latvian forest.

And how about this for a home-spun gate, arch and pergola?

Or this gate, just up the road - they are a creative bunch in my mum's village! Look how there is even a stick handle.

They may be rather rustic, but that just adds to the charm. Not only are they not ending up on a bonfire (which would have instantly sent their stored carbon up into the atmosphere) but they will also provide a home for all sorts of wildlife, such as tiny solitary bees and wasps nesting in any old beetle hole.

Yes, over time they will rot and need replacing, but choose the right wood and they might last years.

Which begs the question, what wood should you use for a creative project like this?

Well, some are indeed much more durable than others. Let's quickly get out of the way the terms 'softwood' and 'hardwood', which you see at DIY stores but are really a bit pants! 'Softwood' merely means the timber from coniferous trees, but it can be harder than some hardwood!

So what you actually need is wood that doesn't rot very quickly, and that can be some softwoods and some hardwoods. For durable woods, then oak, larch and cypresses (including leylandii) are good. However, ash, birch and beech are not very rot-resistant.

I probably don't need to say this, but just in case! - quick-rot woods are best avoided for anything you are going to sit on! Also avoid them for structures you walk under or which need to support heavy climbing plants.

So maybe don't go for a birch bench or spruce seat, but cherry, walnut, larch and most other conifers are likely to be fine, although just be careful that freshly-cut conifer wood is not leaking sticky resin. Choose the right wood and you can create some lovely, cheap little features, such as this top-notch creation I also spotted in the village .

So, as you finish off any pruning and lopping jobs this winter, get your creative thinking caps on and let nature provide you with all the materials your imagination requires.