This was my first tiny project in the mid 1970's. The object was
to fill in between pillars on a mortared wall base. Mosses and succulent plants have
since formed a dense matt on top of the wall, inhibiting growth of woody plants which
could cause damage.
After many years of working in an office, I was pleased to get training
from a Dry Stone Walling Association instructor, and later repaired this section of
wall in a local allotment (awaiting coping stones). Considering the shape of the land
and stones, straight and level courses were not easy to achieve - but wouldn't that
A boundary wall repair - move mouse over image to see the original
state. Suitable coping stones were not available, so I placed the few large, flat
stones I had as uprights, and infilled with "random" left-over stones. I
left some small voids near the bottom of the wall for wildlife, and a field vole was
seen visiting during tea breaks.
More Photos: Zoom in | View Inside 1 | View
Inside 2 |
Other Side |
Another similar boundary wall repair - about 1.6m (5 feet 6 ins high).
The stones available were mostly on the small side, so this took a while.
More Photos: Big Gap | One Third High | Plan
Nearly There |
A repair completed in 2015
Standards for a good looking and long lasting dry stone wall
If you are a wall builder, or a customer for a new or repaired wall,
having a guide to good practice is a good idea. I found that the DSWA leaflet "A
Brief Guide To Inspecting Dry Stone Walling Work" contains a concise list
of things to look for in a well built wall, and I expect there are other guides. However,
it could be impractical to try to adhere to a rigid set of rules - it's also good
to observe what constructions have stood the test of time (or not). For repairing
walls, a lack of suitable material is a common problem - that is the optimum shape
and number of the various types of stones required in the construction of a wall (as
opposed to a heap of stones!). Then it's a matter of doing the best under the circumstances,
or it may be necessary to obtain more material if that is practical and economical.
A Common Failure
Building a dry stone wall with insufficient tying or through stones
across the width of the wall is likely to cause weakness. It's tempting to use the
"long" faces of stones along the wall - it's quicker to build. Below left
is an example of this, the wall is bulging out and is likely to fall (I've removed
some randomly placed hearting stones). Below right, the section is being rebuilt.
Although few through stones were available, trying to place stones which span 50%
or more of the width should help tie it all together.
Several training courses were funded via a Communities First scheme,
during which teams repaired sections of dry stone walls in the American Gardens (left,
2006/7/8) and Lasgarn Wood (right, 2008), in Torfaen, south Wales.
I found a large number of old (possibly moth) cocoons in a 4 metre
section of partly collapsed wall, probably 500 plus. If you have seen similar, or
can provide any more information I'd be interested to hear. See larger
photo, and what's inside one (possibly a pupa shell?).
A couple of examples of other wallers'
Not conforming to the "big stones at the bottom" theory, this section
has outlasted other more conventional sections. I think this is because the waller
took time to ensure that the stones fit well together.
A retaining wall with vertically placed stones spotted in the Black Mountains -
a good style if you feel like lying down while working?
Another retaining wall, or is it tree support ...
Recesses in walls may be bee boles, designed to shelter bee hives
usually made of straw. The boles may take various shapes - some examples are shown
in a DSWA leaflet which can be downloaded from this
page. Examples may date back many hundreds of years, and the International Bee
Research Association would like details of any newly discovered bee boles to be added
to their records on their website www.ibra.beeboles.org.uk
Video (a 3 minute slide show)
PS: I don't do any walling now (and only a little bit when I was).
The DSWA website has a list of contractors, and courses are sometimes run by conservation
organisations and wildlife trusts etc..