4 May 2015

The gabions

Two of our garden boundaries were in a terrible state. Our site had been left untouched for a number of years and the plants had taken over to create a Cotswold jungle along the edges! Not only that, our hilltop position meant that the ground fell away steeply in both directions.  With the landslips of the previous winter (read more here), and potential water run-offs, it was vital that we stablised the ground and protected our lower-sited neighbours.  Gabions were the obvious solution and Ali, our friendly local groundworker was back on site to get them sorted. 

Clearing the jungle

Clear and level 

I love gabions!  I love how they look and they are super sustainable too -

  • they are constructed of locally sourced materials minimising transport emissions and costs
  • they have a lower environmental cost than concrete and other construction materials
  • they are permeable to water and don't allow a build up of hydrostatic pressure behind them
  • the baskets are flexible and the structure can adapt flexibly to forces occurring as a result of soil movements occurring after the construction of the gabion wall
  • winter freeze and thaw conditions have minimal impact to the structure
  • they can be easily colonised by plants leading to a 'green wall' and very naturalistic aesthetic
  • the stone can be reused if a repair is needed unlike a normal concrete solution

The central gully is to allow extra planting space above.

Topsoil spread and levelled with the rest of the 'garden'.

That was the relatively easy gabion wall done.  Now for the more extensive and expensive one...

The gabions were the reason our finances became so tight at the end of the project.  We had verbal agreement from our lender of further funds, so we went ahead with the work.  Our lender later changed their mind, and so money allocated to other work had to be re-distributed.  It was very challenging at the time, but when we look back we had no choice, this work had to be done.  They were a huge unforeseen cost of about £30K in total.  The shortfall of funds has meant that the house hasn't yet been completely finished. Things will come gradually now over the next few years - it's teaching me patience!

Everyone is delighted with the gabions.  There have been a lot of gabions appearing in this area recently and I have to say ours are definitely the best looking - Ali knows how to make a nice, neat gabion.  Retrospective planning permission was granted with no issues at all (we had had someone call planning enforcement...!). Just a shame I don't get to see them.


  1. That is a really nice gabion wall, and something we're thinking about using on our project.

    1. They are great, and you don't have to face them later, unlike our concrete block retaining walls which I'm now struggling with to make look nice and natural. We originally wanted gabions around the house but due to complaints from neighbours during the planning process about how we would look like a motorway embankment (!) we withdrew that feature... they don't look nearly as attractive as the gabions. The pitfalls and tragedy of our planning process - design by common consent doesn't work.