Lamenting little fences

Fences have become tall. Too tall. There was a time when fences were built small. I’m sure you’ve seen one. It might be timber, palings painted white or uprights strung with a criss-cross of wire. Little fences are sometimes brick, three hands high, punctuated by small turrets with one housing a letter box. Sometimes a little fence marries a garden. Sometimes a garden is simply enough on its own.

As I ride, I look around. Where fences are small, my eye has space to stretch. There is depth where near and far, light and shade, short and tall, mingle into a complex celebration of the ordinary. The view is not always beautiful but it’s often interesting; more interesting than a six-foot fence that funnels life into a narrow view.

I lament the passing of little fences where lives lay open and front yards ran free.



I wrote these observations some weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been collecting photographs of little fences seen on my regular rides. Compiling a collection of photos was an interesting experience.

I found quite a few little beach bungalows with their low-rise fences retained. I was encouraged to see them. However, I found myself experiencing a peculiar paradox. Stopping to take photos on the footpath of my bike in front of the fence, I became very aware of the resident’s privacy. I didn’t want to cross any boundaries in capturing images of the little fence. Typically, I directed the camera along the footpath, avoiding the house (unless it was obviously unoccupied). There were some fences I would have loved to photograph but I didn’t even stop because I felt the responsibility of discretion.

In times where large fences are designed to ‘secure’ a property, an irony emerges.

Little fences, where lives lay open and front yards run free, offer a different type of protection, one seeded with respect.


So, here is my collection of images celebrating little fences. First though, let’s begin with a not-so-little fence.


A six-foot fence changes the streetscape.



A small turret housing a letterbox.



Sometimes a garden marries a little fence.


Sometimes a garden is simply enough on its own.

16 Comments on “Lamenting little fences

  1. Gail always a pleasure to read your posts. I love your pithy insights.
    Jeff and I have just returned from Adelaide and surrounds. As we travelled back to Adelaide from the Flinders Ranges, we thought we saw you on the Mawson trail bike ride (similar to Victorian ride). But it appears not.
    Hope you and Jane are well and I look forward to a long chat over coffee sometime soon.

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wouldn’t that be hilarious to run into each other that way Judy 🙂 There’s talk of a trip to Adelaide this year but maybe not enough time for the epic Mawson Trail. I hope you and Jeff had a good visit.
      Thanks for your lovely response to my posts. See you soon for a coffee and a long chat. Warm wishes, Gail.


  2. Despite the lack of space for front gardens where I live (inner Melbourne), there’s generally just enough space to lock a bike or four (depending on the size of the family!) to the front cast-iron fence or on a tiny front porch.
    I’ve been tempted to try to take a video or photos of how bicycles are evidentially a commuting option here, but I’ve also been stopped by concerns about privacy, and also the possibility that I might inadvertently encourage bike thieves.
    Some people have tall brick fences – presumably for security. We simply bring our bicycles inside. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting that you’ve had a similar experience Dayna. In one instance, there was a group of neighbours (adults and children) sitting on a small brick fence on a Saturday morning having a chat. It would’ve made a beautiful photo portraying the community engendered by little fences. I decided to share the scene with words instead 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree Gail, that front fences are nicer when they are small or “gappy”. My reason is more along the lines of building community and safety on the street. Front yards are nicest when they invite social interaction between the residents and neighbours. And enable more “eyes on the street”, as discussed by Jane Jacobs, to increase parents’ sense of safety for their children when they are out playing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reference to Jane Jacobs. I’ve not read her books but this is exactly the conclusion I drew from my experience of collecting photos of the little fences. The openness created far more security for the residents. They could see out and others could see in. While the latter might be prying eyes, more likely they will be eyes looking for the right reasons and respectfully. High fences offer none of that. I was surprised how powerful these little fences are. They promote community so very well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂


  4. Some interesting observations about boundaries, Gail. I grew up remembering mostly picket fences or low slung brick ones like the ones you describe. Backyard fences were always tall grey palings though. To keep pets, or lives in? Or out? Tall fences give an illusion of security. But is it just an illusion?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robyn. It was a pleasant project to explore while out riding. The little fences have a charm about them and offer something quite rich from a community point of view. So I was happy to see quite a few remain. And pleasingly, even one of the old homes that had been recently renovated retained the home’s original little concrete fence.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Gail, Low fences or hedges (hedges are quite popular in Castlemaine) can be looked over to view the garden within the front yard. As a lover of gardens, I like to see the gardens others have created.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Margaret, yes that’s what I enjoy too. Seeing the gardens, and the homes as well, adds interest to walking or riding by.


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