Dry Stone walling at High Blean B&B, Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales

It is estimated that there are around 180,000 mile of dry stone walls in the UK, with many of the walls we see today dating back to around the 1850s.

The Yorkshire Dales are renowned for their iconic dry stone walls which criss cross the dales forming a patchwork of fields. These walls  seemingly taking little to no account of topographical features: like sheer rock faces or precipitous hill sides, just following the line regardless of the angle of the terrain.

Small gap waiting to be enlarged.

Luckily at High Blean we only have a few hundred yards of walls to look after, but following the loss of a tree  we were left with a rather large gap that needed to be filled, in order to keep grazing sheep in our garth.

An average wall will take 1 tonne of stone per meter, but our infill would be wider than average at the base due to the location, a bit over the standard height, and about 2.5 metres long. In short, we were going to have to wall going onto 3 tonne of stone.

We have a local waller, Bill Akrigg, who has over 63 years of walling experience. Having started walling at 12 years old and he is still going strong having now past his 75th birthday.

Opening up a gap in wall at High Blean B&B Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales ready to in-fill

Gap made wider

Due to the wall having been originally around a tree and on the very edge of a rock outcrop with a precipitous drop on the other side, the walling project was even taxing a man of such great experience. It took two coats of looking at before we could start. Work began by taking down the wall on either side of the gap at an oblique angle, to allow the new wall to tie in.

Big Stones to form base of wall at High Blean B&B Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales

Stones too big to move by man alone.

This process was a little fraught, as some of the stones were too large to be lifted and could barely be moved at all. All the time there was the danger that the whole lot was going to go crashing straight down the hill side, which was the former home for most of the pile of stone you see in the “before” photograph. While we did lose one or two stones down the slope, we managed to get the wall end to a neat oblique angle and re-site some very large base stones, from which to grow the new wall.

Bill Akrigg, wallling a gap at High Blean B&B Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales

The wall starts to grow.

Once the large base stones had been secured Bill quickly had an outline of the wall laid out and the form of the wall appeared as if by magic.

Walling a gap at High Blean B&B Askrigg, Yorkshire Dales

Out of nowhere a wall appears: Magic.

While I helped Bill from the down side of the slope, Suzanne collected the small stones [heartings] that fill the cavity of the wall and help to consolidate the wall.

Five hours of walling later we were topping off, when I say we I really mean Bill, his stamina and skill is remarkable, I just hope that if and when I reach 75 I have half his strength and fitness.

Now we have a wall where there was once a gap, and the sheep can be allowed into the garth once more.

Five hours later: finished.

Five hours later: finished.

See Bill hand picking each stone but only touching a stone once.



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