Repair of shared boundary wall

I’d be grateful for anyone’s advice or experience relating to the following situation. Please bear with me if this is a bit long winded - just want to give as much background detail as poss.

One of the boundary walls of our garden was once the wall of a mediaeval house. It’s made of schist and compacted earth, and is about 6m high and the upper part is covered in a thick mixture of vines and ivy (which may well be holding it together!). On the other side of the wall is the site of another old house that is now largely overgrown with brambles*.

Last autumn the retired carpenter still has a workshop below the wall, but lives about half an hour away told me the wall was starting to move in the direction of his atelier and he’d put a couple of short lengths of oak in place stop this.

My wife and I then asked the advice of the maire and when the cadastre was consulted, it turned out that our carpenter actually owned the plot on the other side of the wall and according to the mayor, was therefore jointly responsible for its maintenance! The mayor also gave us the contact details of a local artisan, who could stabilise the wall.

We then returned to our carpenter (with whom we’ve had good relations for several years) relayed what the mayor had told us and that we’d contact said artisan and get a price for the job. There wasn’t an explanation as to why our carpenter hadn’t previously mentioned that he owned the adjoining plot and subsequently there was a similar lack of response from the mayor’s recommended artisan. However down here in the Aveyron, artisans seem to avoid working with traditional masonry beteen October and March because the temps may be too low .

Fast forward to the present. We’ve had a lot of rain over the winter, presumably more earth has been washed from the wall and its stability is unlikely to increase. I’ll need to address the issue in the coming months and need to make a plan (extermely common Afrikaans phrase, “Die boer maak 'n plan.”).

  1. find traditional artisan/s and get quote/s
  2. Have conversation with carpenter about the cost - difficult 'cos his accent is impentrable.
  3. Point out that although his plot is essentially uselss to him, he’s legally responsible for shared maintenance of the wall and it collapses not only will it demolish his workshop, but his insurance claim might be affected if he’s failed to maintain the wall.
  4. Suggest that if he legally transferred his plot to me I’d pay for the whole job, as it would enable us to extend our garden.

So provably not covered by a décennale guarantee then!

What do your deeds say? And where does the boundary actually run?

Doesn’t sound as if it is registered by bâtiment de france, so you can probably do what you like but worth discussing with the mairie in case any local interest.

So repair with lime mortar.

Sorry to everyone who’s replied to my previously very incomplete post, my keyboard locked and I had to re-boot.

What do your deeds say? And where does the boundary actually run?

According to the mairie the wall is definitely a shared boundary wall.

The wall is at least 6m high, unstable and covered in vines and ivy . i don’t have the experience time or desire to blindly remove vegetation from such a high and potentially dangerous 6x10m wall and if successful spend a couple of weeks on high scaffolding. Around here an experienced artisan can repair 2-3 sqr m of stonework a day , whereas amateurs I know who’ve been doing it for several years struggle to manage more than a sqr metre or so properly in a day

Ah ha that is a lot clearer.
Artisans dont like taking risks with their insurances so it would be quite difficult to find one that would want the job compared to and easy job. I really believe you’ll struggle.

Thanks! Looks like I need to find a suicidal mason.

Do they have separate entries in les pages jaunes?

So shared wall, so costs should be shared if you both are up for the repairs?
Check if you need to involve the architects bâtiment de France.
6 x 10m is a big job. You’ll have to take the wall back to solid & down accordingly, then build back up keying in as you go, making sure you are building back on a solid base.
If of historical value check for any grants available. Or a historical association with volunteers guided by a passionate professional macon overseeing the works. (It may cost a few bbq’d sausages & beers at the end of each day but good fun & learning experience for all!


Thanks, that’s really useful advice.

My family and I spent a couple of years in Jo’burg on assignment. I remember the phrase well. I also remember how “I’ll do it now” had a similar meaning to “manyana”. You needed a commitment to do it “now now” for immediate execution :slightly_smiling_face:

No such phrase in France and it doesn’t mean immediately in SA either :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that in SA it was more the intention to do it “now” rather than the intention to leave it until later. The results were probably similar. I remember the first time I encountered it was when I asked for something to be done in the office and was surprised it hadn’t been done a couple of hours later. “Oh, you mean now, now” was the reply.

I read in the Jo’burg Star or somewhere of someone asking if there was a word like manyana in SA, and someone responding there was no word which conveyed that sense of urgency.

In the M/E I found that occasionally people (sometimes wealthy, “importent” people) wouldn’t turn up at meetings because Allah had made something happen. For instance, they bumped to their brother who they had’t seen for a long time and they had to go for a coffee. It was all a case of InshaAllah. No sense of personal responsibility there :smile:

My family and I loved South Africa and the whole region, and we’ve been back many times since. We’d rent a 4x4 and just bugger off into Namibia or Botswana or Zim when it was safe. The only place we haven’t really explored at least once is the west coast of SA. Maybe when this Covid thing is under control, InshaAllah.

When my wife goes out she says “I’ll see you now now.” Make what you will of that…

When I took over as head of a university dept just after the end of Apartheid, I was unable to find the dept’s academic staff timetable. Reason? There wasn’t one! When I asked the head of the first year why all his teaching was in the morning, he replied that by the end of the morning, the ‘blek’ students were too tired to draw in the afternoon, which left him free to spend his aftenoons painting in his studio ( 90% of his students were white).

The South African equiv of manyana is probably ‘it’ll happen in Africa time’ (bit like my wall I’m beginning to think - le temps de l’Aveyron ?)

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Blimey Mark, you’re worried about a 6 metre wall being taken on, I am still waiting for a plumber to return to fix the new tap he bought for me, 2 years ago.

And the English builder, ‘highly recommended’, who gave me a devis for concreting the drive either side of the gate, accepted by me immediately, estimate for start of work, 2 months. 3 years ago.

Another English builder who measured up for a concrete ramp so my invalid wife could get up and down 3 exterior steps, never came back but I saw him at a party and asked him about it. 'Oh I lost my phone but in any case it would have been 6 meters long, so impossible.

Before anyone blames me for only using English, they were the best of the several French I contacted, and the plumber, also French, complains of being subjected to racism by the locals.

Because he originates from Bordeaux. :astonished: :astonished: :astonished: :astonished:

Sorry not helpful, your fault though, you gave me the chance to blow off some steam. :slightly_smiling_face:

Regarding your wall, is it impossible or forbidden, to knock it down?

Glad that’s off your chest - we’ve had a few of those too

Firstly, it’s a very fine, possibly seven hundred year old wall. Secondly the upper half is hidden by a thicklayer of old vines and ivy, which protect it from the rain andt may also be holding the whole thing together, It’s too high for an amateur to safely demolish from my side, whilst if I was to try knocking it down from my neighbour’s side (where the ground level is a couple of metres higher) it could lead to many tons of rubble landing in our garden.

More importantly though, I’m trying to achieve an amicable solution whereby my neighbour doesn’t have to pay his share because it’s no longer a shared boundary wall, but we get something in return. I’m thinking of asking the maire if he can assist because he’s in a position of authority, knows both parties and would prefer the wall being preserved.

Is there a local organisation of patrimoine that you could contact for advice and help finding a solution? We are in a natural park, and they do have some experts to advise people on renovations in keeping with the park landscape and built environment. Might also have a bevy of volunteers…

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I think the Maire’s our first port of call, there’s an undercurrent in the Aveyron to preserve the village’s architecture becauseof its great age and patrimonie


This is how it looked 150 years ago when you could only access it by shouting for a ferry across the Lot (unfortunately the Aveyronais, unlike Gerry Marsden, didn’t spot the potential for a hit song).

That was really the point of my post, Mark, if it is as historical as they say there must be some association, organisation or authority interested in preserving it. In which case there should be some funds, or at the very least expert assistance, in doing so.

Hi all, I’m new to the website but just had to respond to Mark Haywood’s dilemma regarding the repair of the boundary wall. We have a very similar situation with an ancient wall (16 x 5m) at the bottom of the garden which is progressively collapsing into the field below. The ivy had taken over and the wall was also compromised by the roots of conifers that had been planted too close. Advise given was to get rid of the trees and ivy but, as you say, Mark, it was this tangled structure that was holding the wall up after years of forcing its way in between the stones. Each time it rains heavily now we lose a bit more of the wall and, apart from being dangerous, eventually we’ll lose part of our garden. We had a quote to repair the wall using the traditional method (it is a lovely old wall extending out further across the front of the church which is a little further down the hill, so not so high) of just under 40,000EUR, but, with no insurance cover it seems, its out of the question. We are now (reluctantly) exploring the possibility of using those giant concrete lego blocks and then. at a later date, lining the walls with the original stone, or alternatively, buying a bit of the land below from the farmer and creating a sloping/terraced garden! Whatever, its going to cost a lot of money.
If you can get part of your wall paid by the neighbour I’d see if you can repair parts of it to stabilise it before it too late to save. But my advise for now is DON’T TOUCH THE IVY - sometimes its simply one strand that is snipped and a landslide ensues! Be happy to exchange more detail in a private forum if appropriate? Then share any useful results…

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This could be a good idea. Here in Brittany (where they are not apparently particularly b othered if medieval walls fall down) there is an organisation called Tiez Breiz, running courses in traditional building techniques. I have hosted a couple of lime plastering courses, so got free labour on my house. might help.