Dry Stone Walling Courses
Dry stone walls are truly an icon of our heritage, our countryside and our beautiful Cotswolds landscapes- it’s practically impossible to miss them! With such importance throughout the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) our landscapes would be unrecognisable without them!
The Cotswold landscape is marked with over 4,000 miles of dry stone walls. These unique and distinctive landscape features are typically constructed from locally sourced stone- namely the thin strata of Oolitic limestone, which lines the Cotswold Hills.
For many centuries, dry stone walls have been across the AONB; with their uses including demarcation of ownership boundaries and as stock-proof barriers. The earliest known dry stone wall can be found at Belas Knapp near Winchcombe and dates back to Neolithic times (approximately 3,000 BC). However, the majority of dry stone walls seen today were built during the 18th and 19th centuries. At these times, the labour and material costs were relatively inexpensive and readily available. This meant that dry stone walls were a worthwhile long term investment for landowners.
Surprisingly to some, dry stone walls contain a wealth of diversity. Offering shelter from wind and rain, dry stone walls provide fantastic habitat opportunities and wildlife corridors for a wide range of plant and animal species. Dry stone walls support species of mosses, lichens, pennywort, stonecrop, ivy and cranesbill. Slow worms and invertebrates including snails live within nooks and crannies between stones, alongside spiders, woodlice, springtails, millipedes, bees and wasps. Birds such as wrens, wheateaters, robins, redstarts, coal tits and little owls also nest within cavities, alongside toads, adders, voles, fieldmice, shrews, hedgehogs and bats.
Sadly, over the years many dry stone walls have fallen into disrepair. This has mostly been down to the high cost of upkeep and shifts in agricultural practices towards arable farming. The decline in the number of dry stone wallers has also been a widespread problem.
The process of dry stone walling requires some skill, as they are constructed without the aid of mortar and cement. The structure relies entirely upon the ability of the waller to carefully place stones, so that the weight of stones themselves keep the structure standing. Walls still standing after more than 100 years are certainly very well built walls!
To tackle the problem of the decline in wallers, the Cotswolds Dry Stone Walling Academy has been established. With the aim of keeping the skilled practice alive, we run a range of courses for all skill levels. From absolute novices, to the intermediately-skilled and the professional waller- we will always have something available to suit you!
If you want to create your own Cotswolds legacy, if you want to keep the historic skill living on, and if you’re keen on giving dry stone walling a go you can view our courses at http://www.cotswoldsruralskills.org.uk/events/?searchfilter=type&searchquery=1 and book on now!