Two trainees will be learning the skills of the dry stone waller this summer as part of the AONB Partnership’s four-year Heritage Landscape Skills project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Dry stone walling apprentices Lee Hope (left), from Gateshead, and Dale Pattinson (right), from Tow Law, with trainer Peter Dent (centre) © NPAP/Lesley Silvera
Lee Hope of Warburton Crescent, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear and Dale Pattinson of Highfields, Tow Law, County Durham are training with professional wallers in Weardale to take the Lantra and Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) accredited test.
The Level 1 test demands that trainees understand all aspects of building a field wall – stripping out dilapidated walls, digging and laying foundations, building up the wall, packing with smaller stones (the hearting) and putting ‘through stones’ or ‘thruffs’ in place to ‘tie’ the two faces of the wall together. The wall is then finished off with top or ‘cope’ or ‘cap’ stones. This walling specification ensures properly built walls that should stand for at least 100 years. Once they have mastered the basic skills the pair will move on to the more advanced Level 2 test in September.
Lee and Dale are the second ‘intake’ of apprentices on the six-month AONB Partnership’s Heritage Landscape Skills bursaries; another two dry stone wallers and two natural environment graduate trainees will complete the four-year, £109,500 project.
Lesley Silvera, the AONB Partnership’s Project Development Officer managing the scheme said: “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.
“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.”
For more details on dry stone walling in the North Pennines, please contact Lesley Silvera on 01388 528801, or email her at Lesley@northpenninesaonb.org.uk.
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