It was probably the last glorious sunny day of the year. You could definitely feel autumn in the air though when we set out. The mist was hanging in the valley, gossamer cobwebs dripped with dew and we prayed the weather would hold good for the next 8 hours. We arrived at Day's Cottage at about 9 o'clock. There were to be 5 of us on the dry stone walling course that day. Mark (our tutor) had spent the previous day making sure there was a gamut of tools and piles and piles of different sized and coloured stone. There were picks and shovels, buckets, hammers of every conceivable shape, tools for spitting stone, tools for dressing stone and a pair of shears (I quickly discovered what these were for upon bending over whilst laying foundation stones and getting rudely stung on the backside by nettles)
We began by marking out the wall, then started digging the foundations. Then it got interesting - laying our first stones. As each layer was laid down we slowly learnt the ancient art of dry stone walling. It was like doing a giant 3-D jigsaw. You had to complete each layer before moving onto the next which meant in-filling to lend support to the exterior structure. We learnt which stones complimented others, not to align the stones vertically, to make sure the structure always tapered towards the top and to ensure each stone placed didn't lean into the wall where water might drain inside rather than run off.
In no time at all we'd laid our base on a gentle curve about 20 foot long and it was lunch time. We ate in the beautiful 12-sided canvas roofed outdoor workshop nestled amongst old orchards, but we only stopped long enough to refuel - we were all too absorbed in the project to stop for long.
There was no way we were going to be able to complete the wall in a day but by jove we had a jolly good go! Just look at what we achieved! For more information on courses or dry stone walling contact Day's Cottage on 01452 813602 or call Mark Stevenson on 0799 094 7934