Video: Opportunity for the people of Burnley, Pendle and Ribble Valley to learn a traditional skill that will be part of the Lancashire landscape for decades

A chance to learn the art of a dying skill is being offered to people across Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 12:30 pm

The traditional craft of dry stone walling was usually passed down from one generation to the next in farming families but in recent years the skill of walling appears to be disappearing.

But some people are making a living out of walling on farms, gardens and even as an art form in itself. But as fewer people practice the skill it is in danger of dying out.

The Dry Stone Walling Association provide certified training courses, from beginners through to level one and two

Training courses in the art of dry stone walling, an integral part of Pendle Hill's landscape, are being run

and up to master craftsman status. There are also local branches of the association that run courses and

competitions. https://www.dswa.org.uk/

The Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership works with DSWA to run beginners and level one courses each summer, and demand has proved to be high. So far courses have been run on Pendle, near Downham and at Martholme

Greenway near Simonstone.

Around 50 people have been trained so far, some of them using their new skills to help them fix up their own walls or to take on work for others.

Trainers leading the courses are highly skilled and include Philip Dolphin from Skipton, who built the summit seating area on the top of Pendle in 2018, as well as carrying out work for a number of artists in the UK and USA.

An integral part of the landscape dry stone walls can be hundreds of years old. There are over 300km, or 186 miles of dry stone wall on and around Pendle Hill and 80 per cent are classed as being in a good condition

The oldest walls surround the small fields around villages in the area, places like Pendleton and Roughlee.

The newest (which are still mostly over 150 years old) were built on the higher slopes of the hill itself, enclosing new areas of land to be brought into farming or changing open moors and common land into private farm land.

These new enclosures tend to be large, with long straight walls. They were built as a result of the Parliamentary Enclosure Acts in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Reflecting the geology of the ground underneath them, traditionally walls were built by clearing the fields of large stones or by collecting nearby river cobbles and piling them up to create boundaries to mark out field ownership.

Later on, walls were often built of locally quarried stone.

So, on Pendle the walls on the Ribble Valley side tend to be of lighter grey limestone; whilst those on the

Pendle side are usually darker brown gritstone.

Dry stone walls are exactly that... walls made of stone with no cement or mortar and they stay up thanks to physics.

The stones are carefully positioned to exert forces inwards and downwards, making them strong and meaning they don't fall over easily. Larger stones go in the foundations and at the base; smaller stones towards the top.

The wall has two sides, or skins, built up separately course by course (layer by layer) and filled in the middle by smaller stones. Every stone should lie on top of two or more stones below it: always cross the lines.

Both sides slope slightly inwards towards the top, this is called the batter, and strings and a frame are used as a guide when building the wall.

Large flatter stones called 'throughs' lay across both sides to tie the two sides together. Large top stones, or coping stones, create a cap on the wall top and help to shed water off the sides.

And all the effort that goes into building walls is well worth it as they are the longest lasting boundaries a

farmer could want, lasting 10 times longer than fencing.

A good waller can build three to four metres of wall a day, but it’s a hard job, out in all weathers.

Walls provide good shelter and shade for sheep and cows in hot weather and also in wind and rain. Good for farming and wildlife an abundance of plants and animals can be spotted on walls including mosses and lichen, butterflies, beetles, spiders, shrews and mice, stoats and birds – perched on top like curlew, owls or crows; or nesting in the cracks like wrens and song thrush.

If you fancy trying your hand at dry stone walling beginners two day courses are due to take place at Martholme Greenway next Monday and Tuesday (August 23rd and 24th) and there is a week of walling from Septemnber 13th to 17th at the same venue.

Pop up dates at the foot of Pendle steps include this Friday (August 20th) and also Thursday and Friday August 26th and 27th.

The PHLP, via In-Situ arts, has also commissioned an artist called Isabella Martin to create a piece of work

about boundaries. Her resulting film, produced during lockdown, is about to be released and Isabella will be showing people how she uses stop/start animation at an open event with Corky the Hut at Pendleside on August 26th and 27th.

The partnership has also commissioned local film maker Mark Currie to document a year of walling and hedging

activity.

For more information please contact 01200 420420 / 07891 537835 or go to www.Pendlehillproject.com

You can also find the organisation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the blog http://pendlehillproject.blogspot.com/