Typical Wooden Fences in South Tyrol – Renon's „Speltenzaun“

Wooden fences have always been part of the rural alpine region especially on the farms in the mountains of South Tyrol. The braided „Speltenzaun“ is a common one from historical tradition. Today only few still know the old technique of braiding.
It is a decorative element within the landscape, a peasant cultural artifact, a combination of beauty and utility at the same time, something that shapes the South Tyrolean scenery. It is used to enclose farmers gardens, meadows and pastures and has a longer life span than other types of fences. Still nowadays some people in South Tyrol know how to braid it according to the old tradition.

The construction of a “Speltenzaun”

In contrast to other fences this one works without any nails or wires, therefore a lot of wood is needed. The main effort for the construction of the fence is its preparation. Tree trunks without branches are chopped into long pieces and sharpened on one side. These are the so called “Spelten”. The posts are the supporting element of the fence and are cut out of larch and chestnut trunks. After cutting the posts the bark of the wood needs to be peeled off and also the posts are sharpened on one side. To prolong their life span the lower third of the post is getting burnt for a few seconds.
Larch and spruce poles are used as cross bars. For the braiding one needs regular long spruce branches from which the needles need to be removed. The posts are sunk into the ground next to each other with a distance of about two meters. In a next step a cross bar is nailed onto the first post. On this cross bar the first few “Spelten” are braided to. There are several techniques for the braiding which differ from town to town. Generally the branches must be heated in the fire so that they become more flexible.

At the Weberhof tradition is living on

Constructing a „Speltenzaun“ requires manual dexterity as well as more time compared to other South Tyrolean types of wooden fences. In return this one usually lasts longer than others and tends to be more stable. Furthermore “Speltenzäune” are part of the cultural heritage and are therefore worth to be kept alive. Besides being especially stable the “Speltenzaun” also provides protection: due to the sharp “Spelten” it is almost impossible to climb over it and animals can be kept out as well.
The knowledge of how to construct such a wooden fence is mainly handed down from one generation to another. At the “Weberhof” the old tradition is still maintained. The “Speltenzaun” can be found around the farmers garden and the meadows. Sometimes the fence also becomes a motive for the photographs by tourists passing by.

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