Stone walls have always been part of my surroundings, from growing up in North Yorkshire and the Lake District to living and working here in South Devon for the last 12 years. I first trained as a drystone waller in the Peak District as part of an NVQ Level 2 practical conservation course in 1996. I went on to travel and study the art of stone faced terracing in Andalucia, Spain.
Arriving back in Britain with my family, I underwent training with Devon Rural Skills Trust Apprenticeship Scheme. I learned all the main principles of traditional walling, under the diligent guidance of a master waller, as well as other rural skills such as hedgelaying, cobblestoning and chestnut fencing. This has led to a successful full-time business, working on projects for Laing O’Rourke, Devon County Council, The National Trust and the Farm-Able Project and numerous private clients.
I am a member of and Instructor with the Dry Stone Walling Association. I am currently working on my Advanced certificate with them, involving trips to Cumbria. I have been running training days for the Devon Rural Skills Trust and Instructing for Dartmoor National Park with the Devon Hill Farm Project.
I was drawn to walling for many simple reasons; working outdoors as part of a group, learning a skilled craft and restoring the ancient boundaries in our landscape to their former glory. Using hand tools and being guided by traditional walling principles, the craft of walling has a natural rhythm which provides a strong connection to the elements I work and the landscape I work in.
Group walling work has the capacity for considerable self-fulfillment: it can re-connect us to ourselves, other people, to nature and our environment. It is very grounding work – handling and assessing stone, preparing the ground, working with others using simple, traditional tools and coping with whatever weather conditions are occurring!
There are plenty of opportunities for self reflection, learning through group dynamics and shared effort, problem solving and having a good time together. As a group, we aim for a collective sense of achievement, while the completed project will be standing for years to come to be appreciated by all.