The ancient skill of dry stone walling will be taught to two men in the North Pennines AONB in the coming summer months.
The men will be part of the four-year Heritage Landscape Skills project which is being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The walls are a striking and recognisable part of the landscape, particularly in the North of England. They reflect the history of the place and some walls stand for 100 years or more.
The two trainees are Lee Hope of Warburton Crescent, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear and Dale Pattinson of Highfields, Tow Law, County Durham.
Lesley Silvera, who works with the AONB Partnership as Project Development Officer and manages the scheme explained that: “Dry stone walls have become an integral aspect of the North Pennines landscape, providing shelter for stock as well as creating structure in the uplands.
“We are working with local wallers in a bid to sustain this rural craft with the hope that some trainees will stay on and work in the area.”
She added: “Since the 1890s and the crash of the North Pennine lead mining industry, the hills that once rang with the sounds of industry saw many highly skilled rural workers including wallers leave the area for the cities and other countries where there was work.”
Lee and Dale are fortunate to be taught the craft of the dry stone waller over summer. They will train with people in Weardale who are professional wallers. At a professional level one can take the the Lantra and Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) accredited test.
All wall trainees must show that they understand all aspects of building a field wall for the Level 1 test. This kind of work involves removal of dilapidated walls, digging and laying foundations, and building up a new wall. The waller also has to pack the wall with small stones, which is called hearting. He or she then has to put what are called through stones or thruffs into the new structure in order to stabilise the wall.
On top of the new wall are placed what are called cope or cap stones. The specifications are vital in order to make sure that the walls are properly built and will withstand the test of time. A well-built wall will stand for at least 100 years.
When Lee and Dale have completed Level 1 they can move on to Level 2 test in September.
For more information please visit our North Pennines AONB page.