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Although not unique to the UK, it’s fair to say that most of us do like our gardens to be surrounded by fences or walls. There could be many reasons why you might want a fence. It might be because you want to keep your dog in the garden or the neighbour’s dog out of yours. It might be for privacy, especially if someone likes to sunbathe in the garden or use the Jacuzzi. They help to create shelter in a garden for tender plants and shrubs and, of course, some will help to deter the burglar by making it physically difficult to climb into the garden. It seems to me though that most of us want them because we simply feel more comfortable if we physically define the land that we own and have control over.
The use of fences and walls to keep the bad people out (and, arguably the good people in) is certainly not a new phenomenon. Our early ancestors would have erected timber fences around their settlements to keep out their enemies - and animals - and in medieval times the gates to walled cities, such as Exeter and York (and across Europe), would have been closed each night to protect the citizens within. Although the fashion of walled towns and cities died out a very long time ago the more recent, smaller scale practice of ‘gated communities’ is now with us in the UK.
So, do tall (good) fences make good neighbours? Well, I don’t know about that, but common sense seems to suggest that a modest fence around a back garden does have a role in preventing crime. Just think about what a fence would do for you. It will prevent or at least slow the progress of a thief trying to climb into your garden. The thief might injure himself by climbing over the fence. He might make noise, which might be heard by a neighbour. A fence might make it really difficult to steal heavy or large items from your home like the new flat screen TV. If the fence is topped with trellis and, perhaps a climbing, thorny shrub then the thief might not even bother at all.