NEW SKILLS: Matthew Davison and James Richardson said there are miles of walls to keep them busy at their respective homes
NEW SKILLS: Matthew Davison and James Richardson said there are miles of walls to keep them busy at their respective homes

DRY stone walls have been a key feature in the landscape of Teesdale for hundreds of years.

They not only mark field boundaries but also provide a distinctive look to the moors, fields and fells of the dale.

And earlier this month, a team of novice wallers were hard at work in Woodland learning the skills and techniques needed to build and repair dry stone walls.

The course was organised by Utass (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services).

Six students of varying ages were keen to learn the key tips and tricks to the traditional construction.

Instructed by members of the Northumbria branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association, students got to grips with the basic skills needed during the day-long course.

However before any construction could take place students, who varied in ages with the youngest being only 12, had to demolish the selected stretch of wall.

Instructor Peter Gunn explained the theory behind the wall’s construction, the use of throughstones and the mantra all good dry stone waller’s remember: “Two on one, one on two”, as well as teaching the best way of “hearting”.

Mr Gunn said: “Dry stone walling isn’t a dying art, but there is a definite skill to it,.

“I’ve been doing it for years and I still don’t think I’ve perfected it yet.

“The beauty of the courses is we can teach the basic skills that are needed in a day and then it’s down to practise,” he added.

The course was held at Fines House Farm and owner Alistair Hart was more than happy to learn new skills to help maintain the miles of stonework around his property.

Mr Hart said he was more than happy to host the course.

He said: “We did a bit of dry stone walling before this, up at Blanchlands.

“We have walls that need fixing so it is good to have people to help and they can learn while they go on.

“We wanted to preserve the walls and knowing how to put them back up is a really useful thing and it’s handy that [son] Rory is really keen as there are lots of walls to be going on with while he learns.”

Mr Hart’s enthusiasm was matched by other students who were keen to learn the practical skill which they will all be putting to good use at their respective homes.

Alison Armstrong said: “I’m a farmer’s daughter and I used to do this with my dad.

“When I saw the course advertised I thought I might be able to learn something from it and it’s been really helpful as I have lots of walls that I will need to repair.”