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Stackyard News Apr 2011

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Dry Stone Wallers Coping Brilliantly

Two men have reached a ‘milestone’ in their training as dry stone wallers as part of a project to keep traditional skills alive in the North Pennines – and bring vital jobs to the area.

Trainee dry stone wallers
David Armstrong (left) and Jason Ker
© NPAP/Lesley Silvera

dry stone wallers

David Armstrong of Haydon Bridge, Northumberland and Jason Ker of Alston, Cumbria have just passed their Level 1 Certificate in Dry Stone Walling, a timed challenge where each candidate has to rebuild a gap in a wall using whatever stone is available in just seven hours. The pair are honing their skills for the future as part of a training programme set up by the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Both have been receiving training from professional wallers in the South Tyne Valley as part of a six month training programme. Most of their training has been on field walls using different types of stone and in a variety of conditions.

The tests took place at Low Kays Lea Farm near Hamsterley in County Durham which is run by trainer Peter Dent who is gradually creating more difficult walling features such as retaining walls and walls on steep ground so that people can be tested for their Level 2 and Level 3 Certificates.

On the day, assessor Steve Bostock said he was looking for good quality foundations, a tightly packed wall, with a solid build to the copestones and a finish with the minimum use of pins. Steve said: “Jason and David produced a very high standard of walling and scored joint top marks among the group of seven being tested on the day.”

Both Jason and David were delighted to have passed with flying colours. Jason said: “It was a very demanding day and I’m relieved to have passed! I’m really enjoying the course and it’s great to be learning a skill that will help keep the North Pennines AONB looking its best.”

The AONB Partnership’s Heritage Landscape training bursary programme addresses skills shortages in two areas: dry stone walling and environmental monitoring.

Lesley Silvera of the AONB Partnership said: “Both our trainees have a great attitude and their hard work has really paid off. Within just seven weeks of their six month course, they’ve got through their first real challenge and will hopefully keep on improving to gain their Level 2 Certificate. By ensuring that the traditional skills such as dry stone walling are maintained we are safeguarding the features that make the North Pennines such a special place.”

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