Last weekend we held another training course at the Scottish Lime Centre in Fife - thanks once again to Stevie Gordon for the photos.
A few weeks ago (apologies for the delay) we undertook our first 'normal' branch practical activity in about a year and a half, when we went to Tiphereth to make a start on a curved dry stone seat.
Tiphereth is a community project for people with learning disabilities providing both residential care and workshops in Edinburgh. The site is at Torphin in the foothills of the Pentlands, and has great views over the city to the Forth.
It was pretty clear from the outset that we didn't have enough stone to complete the project, even with an abundant supply of rougher stone nearby for hearting. There was also a lack of flat stone for the seating itself.
However, we pressed on with what we had, and managed to get the 'base' (up to just below seat level) pretty much done.
We'll be heading back at some point to finish off, once more stone has been ordered and delivered (not sure when that might be ... seems to be a bit of a shortage at the moment).
(Apologies also for the quality of some of the photos ... I think there was something on my camera lens ...)
Last weekend we held another beginners' training course, this time back at our old venue of Easter Kinleith farm in the Pentlands. Thanks once again to Stevie for the photos - looks like they made a great job of it!
... or is that second course at SLC? Due to COVID restrictions, we had to split our May course in two, run over successive weekends. Here's the result of the second course/part ...
Thanks to Bruce Curtis for the photos.
This weekend saw the completion of our first beginners' training course at the new training facility at the Scottish Lime Centre, with the wall looking good, and both trainers and trainees looking justifiably happy with it.
Thanks to Stevie for the photo, once again.
And sure enough, CSB have now finished the wall:
Slight shortage of stone means there are some turf copes, but this is fine - just adds another element to the training (how to cope if you don't have enough copes ...).
Thanks to Kate Armstrong for the photo.
For a number of years we've discussed setting up a dedicated training and practice site, and now we have one, courtesy of the Scottish Lime Centre at Charlestown in Fife (www.scotlime.org/). We're sharing the site with the Central Scotland Branch of the DSWA (CSB), as they also felt they could use a dedicated site (and furthermore, Fife is really their patch).
We're planning on holding our first training course there later this month, and to that end we need a section of wall long enough for the trainees to work on socially distanced. So earlier in the year several tons of stone were delivered, and now that the COVID restrictions have been lifted a bit, a few volunteers were able this weekend to go along and do some work on this.
Some CSB volunteers had already been along earlier in the week (we have to take turns, as we're restricted to six people on site at a time), so our guys picked up where they left off- thanks to Stevie Gordon for the photos.
I think CSB are heading back later this week to finish off, so the wall should be ready for our first training course.
It's been a long time ... the coronavirus pretty much put a stop to our activities over the summer, and only in the last couple of weeks have a few of us been able to get out for some (socially distanced) walling. As this is a new area for us - normally we're only separated from our nearest workmate by the thickness of a dry stone wall - we decided for our first outing to limit the participants to members of the branch committee, partly to limit the numbers but also because we're learning
how to manage this as we go along. In the end I couldn't make it along myself, and the work was carried out by the more than capable team of Richard, Stevie, Alan and John, with help from Coolie the dog - photos of the build provided by Stevie.
A few years ago we did a couple of walling demonstrations at the Midlothian Community Hospital's open day, at Bonnyrigg, just to the south of Edinburgh. They must have liked what they saw because they invited us back to build a permanent feature, comprising of a circular dry stone wall enclosing (and supporting) a wooden seat. It had to be wheelchair accessible, with space beside the seat for said wheelchair to park.
We thought we'd like to get a stone engraved, both so we could claim credit for our work and also so that the hospital could put any message they might want to pass on to their visitors. In the end they decided they only wanted the word 'failte' ('welcome' in Gaelic). The stone was engraved for us by a former member, Pete Smith, who fortunately had the foresight, when the original build date was delayed, to suggest only putting the year of construction, rather than including the month as we'd originally planned.
The build would have been delayed anyway due to flooding, which necessitated extensive drainage works before the site could be built on - which works were themselves delayed by the virus. However, once done, the site was excellent: smooth packed whin dust on a bed of larger aggregate - a far cry from our usual overgrown muddy field boundary.
In order to accommodate the seat and the wheelchair space we needed to build the wall about 3m in diameter - pretty much the whole of the area prepared for us.
A couple of pretty substantial pieces of wood had been provided to make the seat; however, we needed to cut them to fit the curve of the wall, which could only be done once the wall was up to seat height.
Of course, it's important to test your work as you proceed ...
And, after a few return visits, the finished seat.
Hopefully we'll manage to get some more builds in before the end of the year - watch this space for further updates.
Last Sunday was our last practical outing of 2019, to build a dry stone seat in the 'ruined croft' in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. The 'croft' is basically a small folly, on the banks of a pond at the back of the rock garden. It's mostly there as a backdrop to the surrounding planting, but inside is an under-used space, so those in charge thought that it might be nice to add somewhere where people could sit down.
The idea was to build a seat, or rather a bench, in the corner with the walls acting as a back rest. The Gardens had ordered in a couple of tons of stone - a bit much for the size of seat we could build, but one ton wouldn't've been enough. The stone was Olston, which is quite square, and there was quite a lot of good flat stuff for the seat top. They'd also sorted it out a bit for us, with the flat stuff and the small bits in separate piles, which meant we could crack on straight away, and in a couple of hours we'd got the first couple of courses done and made a start on the third.
After a break for lunch we got the final course finished ready for the flat slabs on the top.
Normally we'd mortar them in, but we reckoned that this spot would be vandal-free so they'd be fine as they were.
And after it had been tested by our official seat-tester, it was all done.
Update 16/10/2019: Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership have posted a video about this build - check it out at m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1853928054753078&id=871207806358446&sfnsn=mo&d=n&vh=e
Last weekend our esteemed colleagues in the South West Scotland branch (SWS DSWA) organised an inter-branch project for all the Scottish branches - the first for many years. This was a great opportunity to meet and work with other dykers, and to get some experience of different dyking styles.
The project was a wall repair at Threave Gardens, a National Trust for Scotland property near Castle Douglas in Dumfriesshire. The site was on the edge of a wood near the top of the hill behind the Gardens, with fabulous views over the surrounding countryside.
The existing wall had collapsed at this point, and the plan was to build a new curved wall providing shelter for a viewpoint with benches looking out across the valley. The area had already been cleared and stone brought up.
Different sections of the wall were going to be in different styles: some standard (double) dyking; some single boulder dyke; and some Galloway dyke - the local style, double until half way up and then single on top.
Single dyking is an art unto itself, and the granite boulders were massive, but the speed at which it went up was impressive - long before us double dykers were even half way up the first section of boulder wall was done.
Saturday was a glorious day, and it would've been almost too hot if it weren't for the breeze and the shade from the trees.
As well as the benches inside the circle, a couple of large flat stones were to be built into the wall to act as seats. These were too big to lift by hand, and were lifted in by tractor.
As the day wore on our double dyke gradually caught up with the single one next door.
SWS DSWA had set up a field kitchen nearby, and provided us with a fantastic lunch (including quite possibly the best rice pudding I've ever eaten).
Very foolishly, I didn't take any photos at the end of the day, thinking that the wall would still be the same the next morning and I could just take some then. The next morning the wall was the same - but the weather wasn't. It started to rain just as I went to breakfast at 7:30 am, and continued steadily for the rest of the morning.
Not that we let this put us off, of course.
The section next to the 'top' stone seat was Galloway dyke, and as for the boulder dykes the single section went up very quickly.
We knocked off late on Sunday afternoon with nearly all of the wall completed - just one section of standard wall joining on to the existing wall was left to do.
Thanks to Nic Coombey and all at SWS DSWA and to Dave at Threave Gardens for organising this, to Karl for the photos (his ones are the better ones, especially on Sunday when my phone got very damp and blurry), to Linda for the superlative catering, and of course to the many dykers from around the country who made this possible.
This blog, and the rest of the site, are produced by Donald McInnes, treasurer of the SES DSWA (I'm the baldy one, sometimes in a saltire hat).