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Retaining walls on a budget

WaysideWayside Posts: 807
edited May 2018 in Problem solving
I have a sloped garden.  The neighbour decided to terrace theirs once upon a time, but never really reinforced their side that borders ours.  About 10ft of garden we have a crumbling mess of decay falling inwards, and it makes a small 10x10 space, unsightly and difficult to use.

Now I could do the same as them, and bank up some slope to match.

Or I could put a wall in to reinforce their side.

The latter is a bit of a pain to be honest.  And I don't want to loose precious width in our garden.

It's a bit of the garden I've repeatedly just tried to ignore for years, but I really should address it.  I'd post a photo, but it's very embarrassing!

Anyway we do have rigid chalk on the slope, so it's possible to bang rods in, and chalk is quite nice to handle, it sticks together, and doesn't collapse like loose soil.  So perhaps I could do something with it.

I thought of stone filled gabions, they can look great or totally naff, so not so sure about them.  The height I'd want to bank is about 5ft.  Dry stone walling is very appealing to me.  I like very large oak timbers, but these are pricey.

I'll need steps too.  Gentle slopes are easier to add steps than steeper verticals.  The latter puzzle me a bit.

I want something pleasing to the eye, and cheap to construct!

Any ideas or photos of project results please? 


  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,562
    Ok excuse the mess and dog toys but this is still very much a work in progress. I started with this (the bank at the back is made up from when they built the house behind and is mostly terrible soil mixed with building rubbish):

    We threw a bunch of soil and rocks at it until it looked like this

    Then I got bored and put in another level of stone wall and added the pond

    This is how it looks at the moment and I'm in the middle of some planting so it's a bit scrappy. Check out the stone I found on the bottom left though with a natural dish which makes a nice rain bath for insects. B)

    The pond had settled in nicely. It's bigger than it looks.

    It's a bit wild around the edges but I like it that way (I've cleared up the mud and weeds on the 'lawn' now)

    The stone was all free since I live on a half-built estate of new build houses and the stuff is just lying around and more gets exposed every time a new house is built. Each stone is at least twice as deep into the bank as it is wide and some stones are so big I had to get a digger to move them into place. I've run out of stone at the moment so there is still work to do on the wall to finish it off.
    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807
    @wild edges thanks for this, it's great to see photos over time.  I was just glancing natural stone online, but couldn't really get a feel for how much it would cost.

    I've got some sandstone - perhaps yorkstone in the garden, but not loads.  It's greenish/amber, if that makes sense, it would make nice walling.  But the banks would be much steeper than yours.

    I do collect flints that get turfed up, but it's a long and slow process - and they'd probably only suit something like a gabion basket.  Or a decorative wall in front of something else.

    Any cheap natural stone will probably do, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with concrete, but do like natural aggregates.
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,562
    You can dry wall in front of gabions. If you use terram in the gabions you can fill them with soil as well as stone so they can be planted up more easily too. I bet in a few years I'll barely be able to see my walls so the quality of stone and how it's laid will only matter for so long. The rougher it's laid the more planting pockets you create so big, uneven stones can be better than tidy walling stone sometimes.
    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 5,576
    edited May 2018
    You can fold terram and make 'earth bags' - like sand bags basically. And you can stack those though I'd suggest you go for a steep slope rather than trying to do vertical. In theory then you could build a stone wall in front, if you have enough stone. This is probably the cheapest and most DIY option.
    As WE says, gabions filled with earth bags is another option and better in the long run because it will be easier to puncture the bags and plant into them - you'd have to be cautious doing that with earth bags alone because the bags themselves are structural. Inside gabions, the gabions do the work and the bags just stop the mud running out. Gabions aren't cheap though.

    PS - your garden looks great WE  :)
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,562
    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807
    edited May 2018
    Thanks.  I'm on the South Coast near Brighton.   I think I'll look into making my own gabions from mesh.  This seems a pretty flexible approach.  As like you say it does give the option to just throw in any old stuff, and later give the wall a nice facade.  I'd love to finish off with rusting sheet iron.

    I've a lot of slope!  It's all uphill.  So it's probably a skill I need to master.

    For low walls that will end up being covered, chalk wrapped in chicken wire works well.  From early experimentation here.  But for a 4ft vertical stretch I could do with something that looks better.

    Most people nearby have used steel tubing, and corrugated roofing iron.  Finished with wood panels.   For low heights you could probably use tough mesh instead of the corrugated iron.

    Iron piles would be nice, but no access to ram them in, and I'm feeling a bit done with digging.
  • WaysideWayside Posts: 807
    @wild edges  how do you finish the ends that touch the neighbours?
  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 7,562
    I've just curved the walls around and tapered them up or down as necessary. The plot to the left is still vacant so that has been more of a problem as I don't know what they will do with their garden. The advantage of dry stone is you can make it whatever shape it needs to be though so I can adjust it if needs be.
    A great library has something in it to offend everybody.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 9,271
    You have created a lovely garden WE, which must have taken hours of work so well done you!
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