Sunday 14 September 2014

Another brick in the wall... we do need some education

The dry stone wall, which borders one side of the garden at OTT, is in a state of disrepair. This could be due to a combination of several factors: age (its, not mine); subsidence caused by the activities of rabbits; large farm machinery driving passed it on a regular basis, or overzealous weeding at its base by Our Lass and I.

Irrespective of the cause, the solution is the same. Rebuild it. There wasn't even a discussion about whether we wanted a different type of boundary. We both like the wall and the habitat it creates. It is probably not substantial enough for nesting birds (wrens and starlings might possibly consider it), but its nooks and crannies supply homes for all manner of invertebrates. Recently, following an influx of wagtails to the area (probably due to migration), we often have a Pied Wagtail pottering across the lawn or along the wall, searching for tasty morsels.

Whilst not quite tall enough to hide the barbed wire fence of the field over the road, it does bring a flavour of Orkney stone into the garden and is a likely substrate for lichen to colonise.

Not wanting to blindly blunder into some substandard nightmare recreation of neolithic stonework, I booked myself onto a one day course to learn the basics of dry stane dyking (as it's known up here), run by Voluntary Action Orkney on behalf of the Scottish Crofting Federation. So, yesterday morning, I and eight other keen students presented ourselves at a site in Orphir to soak up some knowledge of 'rock Lego'.

Kevin, our tutor, showed us how to construct an A-frame, for use with a string line, to ensure that our wall was level and even.

We split into teams of three and commenced work, from the ground up. Ian and Steve (pictured) drew the short straw and had me for company.

Kevin patrolled the line, helpfully pointing out where we were going wrong and offering advice and encouragement. It really isn't as easy as it looks and the most important bits seem to be the small stones that fill the centre of the wall and bind everything together.

Approaching lunchtime, we had made some progress and worked up a good appetite too. We adjourned to Kevin's home, a short distance away, where his wife had prepared a meal for all the attendees. Soup, a Ploughman's salad and homebakes. Delicious!

After lunch, and a tour around the exquisitely-crafted dry stone structures at Chez Kevin, we set to once more, endeavouring to maintain the profile of the wall as it grew skywards.

Ta-dah! Not bad for a first attempt, we thought. And now we are suitably emboldened to try this at our own homes and gardens.

To be continued...

At some point.


Katie (Nature ID) said...

Where did all those rocks come from? And, are they already sized the way they are, or did you cut/break stone, too? It's amazing you know how to build a dry stone wall now.

Imperfect and Tense said...

LOL, I guess with knowing, there's an unending learning experience.

We were practising on a dilapidated wall, so the stone was already in situ. Our first task was to dismantle it.

Orkney is well-served with rock resources. The local flagstone is used for walls, roofs and fencing (and has been for at least 6000 years).