Fencing to the stars

As we come to the end of 2016, it is about time we updated you on our biggest project from this year, our 3km fencing project, which is reaching its final stages. If you have visited the reserve and seen a warden zipping about on an ATV with some fence posts sticking out the back, that’s what we’ve been up to for a lot of the year!

The humble beginnings of a fence. Photo by Imogen Rutter

It is not always everyone’s favourite job, but it is an essential part of estate management when there are grazing livestock present. There are many stages of fencing, and as it’s been such an integral part of the year’s work, I thought it would be a good idea to explain the different stages of making a good sturdy, safe fence.

We could not talk about fencing without mentioning our outgoing Assistant Warden Amelie Sumpter. She has led the way on much of the fencing this year and has been an awesome teacher to us interns and volunteers. Thanks Amelie for making fencing fun!

Sturdy fences make a happy Ed.  (Photo by Imogen Rutter)

Why are we putting more fences up?

The fencing has concerned – key areas (map), to create new grazing areas for our Konik ponies, as well as replacing some old lines of fencing that were getting a bit worse for wear. We are in need of these new grazing areas, not just to accommodate an increasing herd of ponies, but to keep the soft rush in control, and allow some breathing room for a greater diversity of fen meadow species, including lesser butterfly orchid, northern marsh orchid, cuckoo flower (Ladies smock), ragged robin (see previous blog post on Mosstown Mosses). It also gives us greater flexibility in moving the ponies around, if areas are getting over-grazed.

How do you put a fence up?

  • Putting the strainers in: possibly the muddiest part! Usually involves digging a deep hole to put in the large, heavy strainer or corner posts. This is the part of the fence that takes most of the strain so it needs to be straight and sturdy. Once the post is in, the gaps in the hole are jammed with large rocks and earth. There is definitely an art to this, in getting the right sized rocks in the right places (and once they’re 1m deep in the ground, it’s hard to get them out again...). 

  • Adding a stay: A fence post that runs diagonal from the strainer to the ground in the direction of the fence line, to provide additional support against the strain of the wire. Another smaller post is then added at the other end and bashed in with a mell (technical language). 

  • Bashing in fence posts: Using a mell (the “Thor hammer”) or fence post driver.

  • Tying off the netting and barbed wire: This is a very fiddly part, which involves twisting the ends of the wire around the strainer to form neat (or not) little loops.


(Photos by Ed Grace and Imogen Rutter)

  • Tensioning the netting and barbed wire: This is the part that requires the most care as highly tensioned wire contains a lot of energy. Two sets of clamps with bits of wire are attached to the netting and a set of monkey strainers. The monkey strainers then “walk” along the chain, tensioning it more with each notch.

  • Stapling: Stapling the wire to the fence posts, as demonstrated glamorously by Savvas.

(Photo by Imogen Rutter)

Imogen Rutter

Reserves Intern