Outside interests: Dry stone walls

Written by: Adam Branson
Published on: 10 Apr 2014

Adam Key

Q: How did you end up taking an interest in dry stone walls?

A: We live in the Yorkshire Dales, so it’s dry stone wall territory here. About seven years ago we bought a run down house with ruined walls. We still live there – it’s our family home. We must have several hundred metres of dry stone walls and they’re always falling down. There are bits of them that we’ve rebuilt and bits of them that are still pretty wonky.

Q: So is it something you do out of necessity or because you enjoy it?

I do really enjoy it. It’s a great stress reliever as well. If you’ve got stuff on your mind then it gets rid of that pretty quickly. It’s a beautiful landscape and it’s good to be outside doing something productive.

Q: How did you pick up the knack?

A: My father in law is a master at it and he taught me a bit. I’m also self-taught to a degree. You just sort of find yourself getting into it.

Q: For the uninitiated, how do you go about building a dry stone wall?

A: Essentially you start at the bottom. The wall is much wider at the bottom than it is at the top. You’re basically building two walls and there’s a gap in the middle into which you put smaller pieces of stone. That’s what gives it its strength. So you build it up like that. You can do it on your own but the optimum way to do it is with one person on each side. Otherwise you have to keep on hopping over the wall.

Q: Do you have a walling partner?

A: I often do it with my father-in-law. We get on very well. It can also be very social. If you’re doing it out in a field or something then obviously you won’t see anybody, but if you’re in front of the house then there are always people from the village passing by. You can end up doing more talking than walling.