I will lay your Hedge, Build or repair your Dry stone walling or plant new hedges.

Hedgelaying, Planting, Drystone Walling, Garden features, House stonework, hedgelaying, teaching, illustrated talks, Training in Hedgelaying Training in Hedgelaying, Stonework, Drystone Walling

I live and work in the North York Moors area

I'm a qualified hedgelayer and have laid hedges in Ireland, Holland and in the UK. I'm also a drystone waller and have built houses (and walls), garden features, gate entrances in Ireland, Australia and in England.

I've been told I'm a bit of walling and hedgelaying nerd. But I don't mind it because it's normal. Doesn't everyone stop and take pictures of these when they are on holiday?

Some of the site contains my work along with pictures of hedges, walls and walling features from places I've visited. It should be pretty obvious which is my work.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Quite pleased with this one! Re-used stone supplied by the owner to block off an old concrete entrance way.

His barn had some lovely long gate posts and we selected two to act as posts for a new, much smaller gate entrance.

The farm sign below was set on a large stone cemented in place and it too was partially fixed in place with cement.

If I'd had more time I would have spent it making sure the copes were perfectly level.

The copes were going to be a bit of a problem though as I couldn't see anything amongst the stone he'd gathered and placed where I had asked.

I had noticed and old much smaller and partially removed wall at the back of the house. What remained had reasonable 'half moon' shaped copes. Further away hidden behind more stone were a couple of pallets containing what remained of the copes. We soon estimated that we'd be just about have enough. It turned out we were about five short - and these I made!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sheep Hole Isle of Man

This is for anoraks only. A family get together on the IOM resulted in me spotting this beauty.

It's a sheep hole, (I don't know what they are called in the IOM)

But it is the only one I've ever seen in a wall built of vertically placed stone!

It is just a short walk on the coastal path out of Port Erin.

Meanwhile I met a farmer from the other side of the moors here in North Yorkshire (Farndale) and his local word for these holes was, "pop holes" which I'd never heard of before.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Historic Wheelhouse

The phone call was from a builder I didn't know but he told me he had got my name from someone I'd done some walling for. "Would I be interested in rebuilding/repairing some walling on a wheelhouse" up near Commondale?" s Mmmmmm intersting!

Wheelhouses are relatively uncommon in the North York Moors and were built so horses could drive machinery such as threshing machines. This one at West House Farm is much the same as others, in that it worked by the horse walking in circles turning a drive shaft just below the ground turned various pulleys which in turn powered whatever farm machinery was being used.

On the left is the wheelhouse and rather rough and uneven stonework, some of which was falling down.
All the ones I've seen were built with sides. This one was originally constructed with open sides which had at sometime been filled with drystone work. The farmer had lived there for over 47 years and they'd always been there he said.   Why were the gaps between the columns filled in? The farmer thought that it was unlikely that a horse would be able to work in winter during the bad weather on this relatively exposed open site close to the moors. Perhaps it was originally built 'on the cheap', but then filled in when it's faults were discovered.

And here it is 4 days later after my attentions.
Well it's hard to see the difference but I had deliberately tried to ensure the outer stones were reused with their weathered surfaces showing again.

The whole building had been reroofed, keeping as much of the original timbers as possible. Bat roosting holes were provided under the ridge stones and accessed through small holes left by the builder who used lime mortar throughout.

The owner is now going to removed the tons of sheep dung from inside now it's also been empted of assorted tractor tyres and other vintage unwanted old farming machinery!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Browside - medieval boundary

This wall, part of which I've rebuilt on the right is on the ancient medieval boundary between the Strickland estate and the adjoining private farm lands. It consists of the ditch, seen here on the left and the wall on top of the bank and falls steeply away on the far side.

For some reason the copes on most of the wall are triangular shape but on either side of the old entrance to the farm they are replaced by neat blocks - some of which I've had to manufacture. 

A short distance away on Browside is this wall I built a year ago.  Notice the huge field clearance boulder.  Over the years the owner had collected several large boulders from the fields he was 'improving'.  I persuaded him to push it into place using a large digger.  I rather like it!   

And this is what it looks like on the field side. Impossible to climb whether you are a sheep or beast.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Local Copes

This wall is part of a boundary for Swallow Farm near Fylingthorpe and is not far from the historic park wall. What is unusual is the cope is the only example I've come across of this kind of cope which consists of large upright copes placed regularily amongst normal copes. These uprights contain both holes and notched stones. Initially i thought the notched holes were simply broken holes but now believe that the holes were for trimmed lengths of timber to go into and the notches would have held any untrimmed lengths of wood such as hazel in place. Or could it simply have been for victorian wire?

Friday, April 29, 2011

North Yorks Moors Walls

Walls on the North Yorkshire moors can be divided into two styles.
a) Double wall, which as the picture left shows, a wall built with two separate sides of stone. and

b) Single wall as shown in the lower picture which consists of a single stones placed on top of each other. These are common on remoter farms and moorland

Walls here are basically sandstone in the northern part of the park and oolitic limestone in the southern half.;

Copes, (the top row of stones) pronounced "corpse" locally, consist mainly of large slabs placed flat, irregular blocks placed on their sides or regular blocks of varying quality as the top photo shows.

Walls vary in height from 4ft to 5ft and start at around 27"wide at the base.

Almost all walls using cut stone are set in place traced which means instead of being put with their length into the wall, they are placed brick fashion, lengthways along the wall. This is common practice.

Whilst most of our wall have quite thick stone this wall on the Whitby Scarborough road has quite thin and square stone. It is the only example I know like this here although I have seen similar stone in upper Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales.
Buck & Doe coping on a wall near KirkMoor beck on the Scarborough Whitby Rd.

This type of cope is rather rare anywhere on the North Yorkshire Moors

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Irish Drystone Walls

Ireland has the greatest variation in wall than any other country I'm aware. The picture above is from County Clare in the west and this wall is constructed from large slabs of Lisscannor limestone. Like many Irish walls (There called ditches in Ireland) they are filled with till/clay.

In the south west of Ireland especially on and around the Mizen and the Beara peninsular walls are built by placing the stones vertically. This demands a totally different thought process for the waller as demonstrated here on this slope where the builder has had to place longer slabs into the wall to prevent the higher part of the wall sliding down. This builder as is quite normal hasn't got any copes on top but you do sometimes see these walls with a neat top of copes.

To read more:-

This article is based on my observations over ten years living in the southwest of Ireland in County Cork and was originally written for Sean Adcock of the NorthWales branch of the DSWA.

The article as originally written is available as a pdf file here

County Clare in SW Ireland has a landscape similar to the limestone areas of the Yorkshire dales.
Here is a new wall built around 1992 from a combination of field gathered boulders and the copes of limestone slabs from the limestone 'pavement'

Although this might appear to be an untidy example of drystone walling, building with irregular stones such as these is extremely skilled.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stooks - Gate Posts

Just above the National Trust campsite in Great Langdale in Cumbria I found this old example of a gate entrance. Round holes on one side and square ones on the other. Don't quite know why they are different but...... They look nice.

Stoops or Gate Posts now hang gates. But a long time ago gates consisted of five or six wood poles inserted into holes in the stoops. In this part of North Yorkshire these are almost always consist of a horizontal rebate with aright angle turn downwards to hold the wooden pole.(see below)

This is the only example of a post with a curved rebate I've seen. Note also that the top rebate is coming from the other field side of the gate. This makes it difficult for cattle to lift them off. This example is immediately west of Bransdale Mill.

This is the normal stoop with 5 rebates
for rails. This well preserved stoop with holes on the other side of the opening is near Glaisdale on the old road/track leading from the ford at the railway bridge. Notice the superb wall seperating Arncliffe woods from the field.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Newholm Wall

This wall had several gaps in it caused by a collision with a car and snow ploughs pushing it over when shoving snow off this road not far from Whitby.
Like many walls around the North Yorkshire Moors this one breaks most walling rules. All the stones are 'traced', which means
they are put with their longest length along the wall, instead of being placed with their longest length into the centre of the wall This is contrary to 'normal' walling practice. The field side of this wall is completely uncoursed random rubble. Through stones were also used, cut at one one end to match this side and left uncut to match the random walling on the field side.

These were exceptionally well cut stones and amazingly after myself and the owner dug them out of the field where they'd laid for several years I pleased to discover none had been taken away for gardens! Equally there were none to spare!!

In the top photograph was one of my early attempts to repair a gap. I soon discovered that because each course of stone was precisely cut for each course placing them carelessly results in irregular and uneven stonework and having to use two small courses to match one larger one. By the time I'd got to the last gap I'd got the hang of this and my repair is unnoticeable from the remainder of the wall. Even though my early repairs weren't perfect, the owner was pleased and so was I especially as the wall around this field had several gaps that had been there for up to ten years, was close to one of my favourite pubs and only a mile or so from my home!.

Laying a large hedge

Almost any size hedge can be cut and laid. This particular one is alongside a disused railway track and was probably planted around 1860. This was the first time it had been laid, some of the trunks were nearly 1ft across and had grown to around 20ft in hight.

Stage 1 Cut away all the brash around the sides so you can start cutting everything that is growning out to the sides.

Stage 2. Cut all the large stems off as far up as you can reach.

Stage 3. Now go and look at what's left. Remove all the large stems provided you have enough other material to lay.

Stage 4. Now lay what is left as normal. Most of this is chainsaw and large axe work. Even a large hedge can be laid to the narrow style that is common in Yorkshire hedge laying.

And this is the regrowth around three years later.

This hedge was laid in periods when the overnight temperature (Sinnington Manor) was as low as -16c.

I have heard and read that large hedges don't regrow as well as younger hedges and that low temperatures can kill off the laid stems.  This doesn't appear to have happened here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

garden Feature

The builders merchant had some bricks going cheap and Trish wanted some interesting feature to replace the unloved front lawn. She came up with the rough design, I came up with the carrying it out.

It looks quite abstract now but once the plants are growing it will look totally different.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Walker's Seat - Cowbar, Staithes

I volunteered my services to the National Park a couple of weeks ago to demolish and rebuild this seat a little further from the sea.

The two days it took me and several national park apprentices to complete the work were done over the stormiest weather I've ever had to work in. Redcar a couple of miles away recorded wind speeds of 68 mph. It was certainly enough to make sure you couldn't stand still in the teeth of the storm and it was not the kind of conditions you could concentrate in for long.
See also this from the Whitby Gazette

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dry Stone Walling & the Internet

Or, The Good, Bad, Ugly and the unexpected from Google

This was going to be easy. Punch “drystone walls” into Google and go through them – see what is out there – good and bad. Page 1 until ? Well, I gave up the careful prowl at around page 20 of Google results and started page hopping until I gave up at page 35 when my browser refused to open any more sites.

So what did I discover? Well,, most surprisingly was the fact that most sites I turned up were entirely as you would expect in that they were relevant and mostly quite good. Along the way I discovered a few odds and ends. I discovered that in answers at Yahoo.com a thread which stated a stone wall would cost to build anything from £30 to £300 per metre depending on who you believed. I also found a wall costing only £4.99. I found out you could attend a drystone walling course in Switzerland for £435 including 3 nights full board & breakfast at www.myswiterland.com. I also discovered the Catalan for drystone waller is “Margerer”

As you probably have already discovered, a search on google produces mostly waller’s own websites, several dswa pages, amazon books and rather amusingly a few portal sight which lists areas with drystone wallers in it. Swiss Cottage in London was listed and isn’t known for it’s walling traditions so I couldn’t resist a quick visit. It listed three walling sites, one of which was a quarry in the Black Mountains an address in Armagh which is in Ireland so I had a look to see what was going on there. (Nothing). An address in surrey turned out to be a builders merchang so I’m still trying to work out the link with Swiss Cottage. I pressed the back button.

The first interesting site was “Sticks and Stones’, http://www.omlxi.com/sticks_stones/index.php a Tasmainian site by two gents. One a waller, the other a hedgelayer. Yes, both are practised in Tasmania even if only by these two and you can see their work.

By page 5 some odd drystone walling sites appear. Attracted by www.opendemocrfacy.net and it’s appealing, ‘Reshaping The Dry Stone Wall of Irish history’ title I gave it ago. After all I’d lived there for 10 years and never, ever come across this book. The book’s description was as follows:, “This book of twenty-five chapters is a selection of papers presented at a conference organised by the British Association for Irish Studies held at the University of Salford in September 2005. An additional commissioned chapter deals with the fortunes of the two major Unionist parties since the Belfast Agreement of 1998, in particular tracking the transition of the Democratic Unionists from opposition to the ‘Trimble-Adams Pact’ to miraculous support for a Robinson-McGuinness Executive. Appropriately, the book retains the diversity of the papers’ subject matter and, in keeping with recent academic...” Back space again!! I eventually worked out the relevance of the title with help from Trish. I’ll leave you to work it out too. Good luck.

On page seven I turned up http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/412167 an animated video of “Old Man Pie” building a wall. Stupidly I expected an instructional video but it turned out to be an animated video almost showing wall building. Don’t bother but good if you like watching or listening to something pointless. “I build a wall around my home, It keeps out enemies and friends”. Oh, go on I suppose it was a bit of fun after all!

In total contrast and well worth looking at is the video by Mick Soft at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIHc09Z5hvw. It’s a good micky take at wallers who talk about walling in some kind of hushed and referential manner. .The man does not confine his wit to us wallers either. If you follow the links watch his take on tree surgeons too.

A site known to many is Norman Haddow’s blogspot

http://wallswithoutmortar.blogspot.com and is a simple blog containing many excellent pictures and articles on walling from many countries. Well worth the visit. This site is an education in itself.

Another interesting site http://www.astoneuponastone.com/ the home of the Drystone walling association of Australia. Lots of pictures of.....errr,,, Australian Walls!

The first techno site I found with an extensive report on the strength of drystone walls, conducted by the University of Bath, can be found at http://www.bath.ac.uk/ace/dry-stone-2/

Of real interest to us wallers and probably well know is The National Stone Centre, especially the Millennium Wall at http://www.nationalstonecentre.org.uk/vs_millenniumwall.html. Numerous walls from around the UK built in regional styles using stone from around the UK and of course built by many different wallers from around the UK.

For those wallers who actually turn up to give an estimate then this site http://www.lowimpact.org/products_dry_stone_walling.html offers a solution. Just send them as many details as you can and they’ll give an estimate of the cost for them to build. This company would be a welcomed contributor to regular enquiries on the DSWA forum when it comes to questions of costs and speeds.

On the web you can also buy a complete Flexible drystone wall from JAVIS-JSTONEOOS-FLEXIBLE-DRY-STONE-WALLING and it will only cost a pound or two. But before you get excited it turned out to be the sort you get in a plastic bag and use on model railways and the like. I found another one advertised as, ‘suitable for model railways’ at £4.99.

The MPs have also been claiming for stonework. Janis Anderson Rossingdale MP paid several hundred pounds for walling on her home. (I’m not sure which one!) read more here in the Manchester Evening News http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1121367_janet_andersons_dry_stone_wall

As we go further into google some new and unexpected stuff comes up This University of Huddersfield page http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/4729/ provides us with an extract from a thesis entitled, “Tacit knowledge, learning & expertise in drystone walling” (Farrar, Nicholas Stewart 2006) Reading the extract was interesting and one day I’ll get around to reading the whole thesis which can be read by clicking the link. At 277 pages you’ll be doing a lot of reading – in fact you’ll get to page 134 before you meet a wall or even a waller. On page 243 there are some useful lessons in support of the DSWA walling qualifications.

If you want an expensive book on stonewalling try Colin Sowerby’s http://www.thedrystonewaller.com/products.htm 6 pages for £5, an e-book claiming to be a concise guide to walling. Obviously some of us know far too much for our own good.

Flikr interestingly didn’t come up until page 20 and there are thousands of pictures which I’ll let you trawl through at your leisure.

The stone foundation www.stonefoundation.org an american site worth a visit even if I found the navigation a little confusing.

There are a number of good sites describing how to build a wall. But by far the worse is this one http://homeideas.howstuffworks.com/walls-and-boundaries/how-to-approach-building-a-dry-stone-wall.htm. If you are a knew nothing before looking at this site you’ll still know nothing afterwards.

You can even watch a stone wall being repaired. By invisible people no doubt at http://www.byrdir.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/stonewall.gif

Way down the listings on page 18 or so was this european site http://www.conselldemallorca.net/mediambient/pedra/pedraensec.php?idioma=ing&opcio=1 A Mallorca based site, of which a large portion is devoted to the rebuilding and conservation of their drystone walls and structures and is available in several languages which perhaps is a reflection on the recognition of the world wide interest in drystone walling. Conservation isn’t just a British thing!

And so on. I got to page 34 on google before my PC started to have a bad internet day but not before I noticed, “Taylors Master Guide to gardening which stated that “Drystone walls are ideal for gardening as they give when the ground moves as it freezes in winter.”

I’ll end my tedious tour here as the last paragraph could promote some discussion amongst anorak clad wallers. Oh, and if anyone does discover some really truly awful walling sites please let Sean know, because I couldn’t find them!

NB. This article was written for Sean Adcock for inclusion in Stone Chat, a journal produced for the North Wales branch of the Drystone walling Association of GB

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hedgelaying in Holland

In 2007 & 2008 I was invited to give a demonstration of hedgelaying in Holland. (Thanks to Lex Roeleveld www.heggen.nu)

Hedgelaying had died out in Holland and had only recently been re-instated by a group of very dedicated individuals. The style currently being used was largely decided upon following intensive study of old previously laid hedges and interviews with the few country people who had a memory of hedgelaying. I was interested to discover that the current style used no stakes and involved laying alternate stems at the base, middle and finally along the top of the hedge as a binder. As the hedge used the living stems to support the hedge, it gave an instantly thick and sturdy hedge and needed no stakes.

Recent thinking in Holland is that perhaps this style is the result of evidence is based on of casual attempts by untrained farmers to lay hedges after the last professional hedgers died out before WWII. Looking at very old laid hedges in the UK and identifying how they would have originally been laid may well produce some interesting styles here.

To read more about the Trip to Boxmeer Holland go to http://davidwperry.blogspot.com/2008/01/hedgelaying-in-holland-2007.html