A Fascine is a rough bundle of brushwood used for strengthening earthen structures.
They are typically used throughout Europe for protecting banks from erosion and for making paths across wet terrain. Militarily, fascines have been used for several thousand years for shoring up trenches and modern variations are used by military engineers wherever armies are deployed. A re-emerging technique of bio-engineering that dates back to 12th century China is providing a new market for cost-effective solutions to soil stabilisation and erosion control situations. In Eastern England, more than 20,000 bundles of fascines are purchased by water catchment authorities annually.
Fascines are nothing more than 20 or so 25mm sticks, which are between 2.4 to 3m long, bound in three places to give a finished diameter of about 25cm.
Fascines have many advantages including their low cost and low long-term maintenance, low maintenance of live plants where established, environmental benefits of wildlife habitat, water quality improvement and aesthetics, compatibility with environmentaly sensitive areas or sites with limited access, capability of storing wind-blown native seeds and preventing wind erosion, promotion of food chains and balance through the revegetation of areas. Live plants can be planted in them, which improves soil stability as the roots develop and they can offer local employment opportunities with low start-up costs.
From stream bank and lakeshore protection to gully restoration and slope stabilization, fascines provide creative natural alternatives to concrete structures and weed mats in many cases. There are many types of fascines, including contour wattling, brush layering, trench packing, brush matting, live cuttings and pre-vegetated mats where live plants are grown on moveable mats of organic material, which can be combined to provide structural stability across many varied landscapes. Manufactured 1m timber stakes are primarily used to secure fascines. With a ready market and local employment, all that is required is a reliable source of branches, possibly from hardwood timber plantations undertaking thinning operations or excess introduced willow thickets.