Access Work

Gates and stiles

Installing gates is one of our regular summer activities. Often they are field gates to allow access for vehicles. Kissing gates are the preferred choice for pedestrian access. A stile may be used as a cheap and simple means of crossing a fence, but is much less user-friendly than a kissing gate.

Fixing gates

A traditional wooden gate has a long bracket at the top and a short one near the bottom. The top pintle or pivot-pin is fixed so that it supports the weight of the gate, while the bottom pintle is put in upside down so that the gate cannot be lifted off. Both pintles must be on the same axis, otherwise the gate will not swing freely. Likewise, there should be a gap between the bottom support in the post and the eye on the gate. There is rather more to it than this, the best way to learn is to come out and get involved.



Wire or wood

We generally erect two kinds of fence, using either wire or wooden railings. Wire fences may typically have three strands of barbed wire, where there are cattle, or stock-netting and one or two strands of barbed wire for sheep control. Wooden fences, often called "post and rail", may use square ended rails nailed to posts for a formal appearance, or tapered ends fitted into slots in the posts, giving a more rustic look.

Other combinations are possible, near Mottisfont we had our first-ever task of fencing a complete field with chicken wire topped with high-tensile plain wire. This should give the users quite a few options on what livestock to keep in the field. Chickens and cattle perhaps?

Box strainers

On soft ground it is generally necessary to use box strainers at the ends to give extra anchorage. A box strainer consists of a main corner (or end) post, and a secondary inner post with a horizontal strut between them. The tension in the fence wire is transferred from the corner post back to the top of the secondary post by compressive force in the strut. A loop of wire from the top of the secondary post connects to the base of the corner post. By tightening this wire the tension in the fence wire is directed down to the base of the corner post, making it unlikely to pull out of the ground.

Using wire strainers


Monkey strainers are regarded by some as an unusable arcane device. They can be awkward and tricky, but are worth learning how to use without excessively bad language. For plain or barbed wire only one set is needed, generally anchored to the straining post and offset slightly from the intended position of the wire. With stock-netting they can be used with a fence-clamp to give an even pull on the wires. This is where tempers can get frayed if the monkey strainers are anchored to the middle of the post, as they are then in conflict with the netting. It's not good to staple on the netting only to find that the strainers are trapped on!
There are two solutions, either use two strainers, above and below the netting, or use one strainer anchored to somewhere else further on from the post. The second solution is best because all of the wire is in full tension when it is stapled on. With the first solution there is the risk of a slack length between the clamp and the post. Finding a suitable anchoring point isn't always possible, though an example is shown in the photo where there was a convenient hand-rail. It may be possible to use a vehicle, just avoid pulling it apart.

For some more information, see the Forest Fencing guide from the Forestry Commission.

Boardwalks and dipping platforms


With increasing public awareness of the countryside, more places need to be made accessible without damaging them. A boardwalk is generally used to provide controlled access over soft or wet ground. It can be an expensive solution, so short lengths may be installed only where necessary.
A dipping platform uses much the same construction, built out over the edge of a pond or river.
A cheap boardwalk can be made from old railway sleepers, held in place with stakes.


Where the ground is not excessively wet, paths can be created by clearing vegetation and laying down hoggin, which consists of gravel in a mixture of sizes. Bark chippings may also be used. This type of work may appear to be rather destructive at first, but enables people to keep to one path instead of making their own paths at random.
A layer of matting, known as a geotextile, is usually laid over soft ground. This allows moisture from the soil to escape and prevents the soil from mixing with the top layer of hoggin.

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