Dry Stone Walling

May 16, 2014 - David Cornwell, Museum Volunteer

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The Museum ran two dry stone walling courses for the first time in 2014. Participants learned how to build a dry stone wall. Course participant and Museum Volunteer, David Cornwell, shares his experience.

Six participants turned up for the American Museum’s Introduction to Dry Stone Walling course on 10th May. This number included two returners who had enjoyed themselves so much the previous week that even dire warnings of high winds and heavy rain had not dulled their enthusiasm.

Our instructor, Mark and general coordinator, Dave led us up the garden path, literally, to the museum’s perimeter where a section of 200 year old dry stone wall had conveniently collapsed.

Over the next five hours, we learned that sorting, heaving and lifting stones is tiring work, that the process of construction is time-consuming, but that, with patience, the right stone can be found for every space. After a while, a rhythm emerged within which the wall appeared.

Dry stone walling

We battled the elements, squalls of horizontal rain driven by gale-forced winds. Sodden, muddy but unbowed, there was not a hint of mutiny, even when the billowing gazebo overturned the trestle table holding our coffee and cookie supplies. The group worked steadily, encouraged by the calm enthusiasm of our mentor.

There is something extremely satisfying, therapeutic even, about creating such a solid, orderly structure from the chaotic pile of rubble which is the dry stone waller’s starting point. Pride was the most frequently used word as we looked at our creation at the end of the day.

Dry stone walling

Dry stone wallingSo, there you have it. A well-built dry stone wall is like a successful life: solid foundations, lots of good stuff packed in the middle, an occasional step back to appraise and modify the process as necessary, a warm contentment at the final structure.

Dry stone walling

Wonder if our effort will still be standing in a hundred years?

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