Lewis, 82, enters his eighth decade as a dry stone waller
By David Wibberley - Reporter
LEWIS Staley, 82, is still building dry stone walls after 70 years and shows no signs of giving
up just yet.
“I started dry stone walling on my dad’s farm in Lunedale when I was 12 and I am still doing it all these years later,” he said.
Mr Staley explained that as a boy he managed to acquire a large garden that needed to be walled in and that is how he began.
In the early days Mr Staley combined working on local farms with dry stone walling.
When he moved to Barnard Castle about 50 years ago he decided to become self-employed and walling became his true vocation.
Mr Staley still combines his wall building with farming, raising beef cattle on his Barnard Castle farm.
Mr Staley, who is self-taught, said: “It is the simplicity of walling that makes it almost therapeutic. You don’t need expensive plant and machinery – all you need is your hammer.”
The job isn’t all plain sailing, he added.
“You have to work out in all weathers – once with the wind chill it was minus 20 and at other times, in the sun, the stones are almost too hot to handle.”
Mr Staley has built walls and worked on stone built projects across the north of England. Some of the jobs are only accessible by walking or quad bike.
He said: “I was once part of a team that built a dry stone wall near Consett that was eight miles long as well as sections along the M6 between Carlisle and Tebay. ”
Mr Staley still has a strong work ethic.
“This isn’t a nine to five job, you have to put the time in, you have to get out there and get the job done,” he added.
After all these years Mr Staley still finds walling a “challenge”.
He says he is still learning and the most important part of a good wall is getting it straight and level.
He added: “You look at a stone and you see exactly where it is going to fit in a wall.”
Mr Staley, a devoted Christian, sees parallels between his faith and dry stonewalling:.
“We are all like stones, just waiting for the Lord to pick us up,” he said.
Mr Staley is passing on his knowledge and skills to others. Ralph Pattisson, a Newcastle-based architect, regularly visits Mr Staley to learn the art of dry stone walling. Mr Pattison said: “I am a long time admirer of the life and work of Lewis.”
Although Mr Staley has no intention of retiring just yet his son, Adam, is working in the business and will, one day, take over from his father.