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  • Rebecca Armstrong

Building a fence at the community garden

Litter is becoming an issue at the TransMission Community Garden, so protect the space we build a fence out of pallets

An urban garden with a line of pallets turned into a fence. In the background is a line of cars and a bus and beyond that a Wilco
A fence made from found pallets

One of our main watchwords at Transition Walthamstow is sustainability. We want to put the things we preach into practice. This means doing our best to reduce waste and overconsumption.


When it came to building a fence we wanted to repurpose materials that we found in the local area as much as possible. The ideal thing for this was pallets scavenged from around Walthamstow. AH and MP were the main procurers of these – locating pallets and transporting them back to the site by cargo bike. The market was an excellent source and the traders were more than happy for us to take them away. They even shared the best days to go looking and the time the council came to collect them.


Hedge funds

The idea was to turn these pallets into a sturdy fence along the front of the site. The other three sides are protected, after a fashion. The back has a high wire fence and faces a block of apartments. One side faces Mission Grove school and has a low wall. The other has a low wire fence and opens onto a car park.


We’ve planted hawthorns – which we got for free – along this side and they’re already starting to grow leaves. There are also some along the back. This will form a nice hedge over the years, providing security as well as supporting a whole plethora of native wildlife.


But the front was totally open to the road and it invited litter dropping and people allowing their dogs to use the space as a toilet. We love dogs but we’d prefer them to not poop in our community garden. So some fencing was needed.


A ground plant with small purple flowers
Sweet Violet

No funds

Buying fencing new is not only wasteful of resources, it’s also very expensive. We looked into natural fencing and several other options, but they were far beyond our meagre financial means. As a small volunteer group we don’t have deep pockets. So getting the pallets for free was the only way we could build our fence.


The plan was to secure the pallets to some sturdy fence posts. We had a small amount of funding from the council and we used this to buy the posts, along with decking screws to hold it all in place. We also borrowed a post rammer from Walthamstow Tool Library.


I had no idea what a post rammer might be. I was imagining some sort of high-tech device. But no, it’s a really heavy contraption that you put over the post and literally ram it into the ground with brute force. That was fun.


MH and AH had already started on the fence in the days running up to the work day, so we weren’t starting from scratch. A bunch of us, including a new volunteer, gathered on the morning of 16 March. The weather was good and although there had been rain in the week, it remained dry for us.


With four of us working together we made short work of lining up the pallets, getting the fence posts in place and then ramming them into the ground. It was quite physical work, but fun, and excellent for relieving stress. We also spent some time clearing the site of rubbish and checking on what’s growing there.


A tall plant with yellow flowers like a daffodil and then a ground plant with small yellow flowers like a buttercup
Narcissi (back) and Lesser Celandine (front)

In bloom

The bulbs we planted last year are doing well and the hawthorns that went in in January have got tiny shoots on them. There are also a lot of ‘wild’ plants. We’ve got Sweet Violets, Birdeye Speedwell and Lesser Celandine, among others, as well as elder and Cherry Plum trees that are just starting to blossom.


We had three people stop and talk to us about what we were doing, all were very interested and thanked us for looking after the space. They all commented on how it had become a magnet for litter. One lady told us she was 95 and had gone to Mission Grove school as a child. It’s really heartening to hear such stories, and to know that what we’re doing is being noticed by the community.


The next garden work day is on 13 April, starting at 10.30am and lasting to about 1pm. But people can turn up whenever they want during that time and stay for however long they can. The main task will be to place and fill our raised beds. We hope to see you there!

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