How to make decorative fencing

Nearly every school has a fence of some kind, be it for security, separating different areas or even for seating. Most are rather dull or, at best, nondescript. However, Palatine special school in Worthing has come up with the simple, yet ingeniously creative idea of using fencing as a temporary site for displaying artwork made by the pupils during lesson time; in other words, it's an outdoor exhibition space. For the Growing Schools garden at Hampton Court flower show, the pupils made a decorative fence inspired by their investigations of trees, focusing on leaf shapes, leaf skeletons and chlorophyll patterns.

Here's how they did it:

* Fences can be made from a range of different materials. Palatine school used coppiced wood, bought cheaply from the local Woodland Trust. Coppiced wood makes an attractive, rustic-looking fence and is also environmentally friendly, being the by-product of woodland management. If you cannot source it locally, try contacting the Woodland Trust (tel: 01476 581135).

* Palatine found the easiest way to make a basic post-and-rail fence was in 3m sections flat on a hard surface, erecting it afterwards.

* To create each section, you will need four 1.5m lengths and four 1.2m lengths of coppice to make the upright posts, as well as six 1m lengths to make the horizontal rails.

* Place all the upright posts in a line on the floor in pairs, with the taller posts at either end. Then measure 30cm and 1m up from the bottom of each post and mark it clearly.

* Place the horizontal rails perpendicular to the uprights at the marked points, sandwiching them between each pair of upright posts at either end. Then nail through each horizontal rail into the uprights using galvanised nails.

* Once assembled, erect each fence section using a mallet to drive the posts into the ground.

* The show garden fence was used to display enlarged leaves cut out of marine plywood (approximately 50 to 1m wide). The pupils copied leaf shapes on to the plywood, cut them out and then decorated them to look like leaves, using acrylic paint, pastels and varnish.

* The leaf shapes were attached to the fence using strong galvanised wire, small holes having been drilled through the plywood on each side.

* The finishing touches included smaller plywood leaves (10cm to 15cm), which were nailed to the tops of the coppice uprights and a garden rope, similarly decorated, strung between the taller upright posts.

Martha Godfrey is project manager of the Growing Schools garden. Contact her at:

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