This spring's storms brought an unusual level of destruction to the gardens of Britain. Fence panels which had been battered by bad weather, and soaked by the rain for weeks, were subjected to incredible winds - and they just couldn't take it. Homeowners around the country found their garden open to the elements (and the neighbours) and have been gradually getting round to restoring order and replacing panels.
This has created so much demand for fence panels that it has had two bizarre effects.
The first is that, according to the Daily Mail, the price of panels has soared. Panels which were selling for £20 have been selling for as much as £80. More widely, prices have at least doubled and in many cases trebled.
The Telegraph reported that as early as March stocks of panels were starting to run low. It said at the time that demand had increased five-fold, but that supply hadn't risen at all. Manufacturers blamed a shortage of raw materials for the delay in producing more. Since then, the Bank Holiday surge in DIY has made things even worse, so there has been no let up in demand.
TheftThe other impact, even more bizarrely, is that thieves have taken to stealing the panels. The Lancashire Telegraph reported last week that one woman, from a quiet cul-de-sac in Blackburn, woke up on Bank Holiday Monday to find half the fence panels around her front garden had been stolen. To add insult to injury, they came back on Thursday and took the rest.
Meanwhile, the Bolton News reported that a couple from Bolton had put in new fence panels four weeks earlier to replace a hedge and complete a garden makeover. They woke up one morning in April to discover that thieves had helped themselves to half of them. And Warwickshire Police reported a similar incident in Nuneaton, where new fence panels in the front garden were stolen overnight. While the thieves were at it, they also took the old fence panels which had been stacked in the garden.
Stealing fence panels is not an easy business. Even when you have removed them, they are heavy and bulky items, which aren't going to squeeze into the boot of even the most generously-sized car. It means that either these are incredibly strong opportunists, or organised gangs with vans, stealing to order.
Protect yourselfExperts at fenceinfo.co.uk say that the best way to protect your panels is to use wooden posts, and screw the panels into the wood - which will make them more resilient to high winds too. If you have concrete posts that you really cannot face removing, then you can screw a metal bracket across the post and into the fence panel either side. Failing that, you could opt for a striking paint scheme which will make your fences too easy to spot on the second hand market.
Ronseal, meanwhile, suggests that instead of spending time and money searching for new fence panels, if your panels have been blown down rather than stolen, you should consider whether anything can be done to revive your existing panels. In some cases a scrub, some strengthening with more horizontal pieces of wood, and a coat of some form of protective product could save you the cost and hassle of battling the rest of the country for the few remaining panels in the shops.