Last weekend a few of our members went to Penicuik House, a few miles south of Edinburgh, to repair one of their retaining walls. I'm assured it was a good day out, and the wall repair looks good.
Thanks to Kenny for the photo!
Last weekend we ran another beginners' training course (our last of 2023), repairing a wall at Harlaw in the Pentland Hills Regional Park. The weather turned out to be less than clement, but it doesn't seem to have put off our trainees.
Thanks to Stevie Gordon for the photos!
On the first of the month we were once again at the Haddington Agricultural Show to give a demonstration of dry stone walling. It was a fine day, but there was a warning of high winds later on (not that this is usually too much of a worry to a dry stone waller).
As usual they had provided us with a pile of stone - in fact, I think it was the same stone they provided us with last time. It was certainly very similar.
We had quite a few members (seven, in fact) including professionals Stevie and Rosie (t/a Lothian Dry Stone Walling), so it wasn't long before the wall began to take shape.
We had a bit of a challenge with lack of long stones to make the cheek end with, but our professionals were up to the task and made a pretty neat job of it.
And by lunchtime it was built.
This was good because it gave us lots of time to talk to passers-by, but it left us with a question of what to do with the left-over stone ... Richard suggested we build a cairn, so we gave it a go. It turned out quite a bit smaller than I'd envisaged when I put the bottom course in ... and there was still lots of stone left.
Richard decided he'd show us how a professional would do it, but before he'd got very far some aspiring young dykers joined in, make up in enthusiasm what they lacked in experience.
There was still plenty of stone left after the two cairns were built, so we filled the space in between to make a barrow.
By this point the wind had picked up and there had been a few squally showers, Stevie and Rosie had gone in search of some well-earned liquid refreshment, John had headed home as well (having partaken of some liquid refreshment the night before). and most of the punters seemed to think it was time to call it a day, so Sam and I went home leaving Dave and Richard to man the demo for the last hour or so.
I expect we'll be back next year, building with the same stone ... perhaps we should do a round wall, so we don't feel the lack of long corner/end stones so much ...
Thanks to Sam and Stevie for the photos.
Last weekend we were at Traprain in East Lothian, repairing a collapsed section of wall for Sunnyside riding stables, It's a beautiful location, with Traprain Law in the near distance. The original wall was mortared, but the mortar had long since crumbled and the wall was almost completely collapsed, with the gap being closed by pallets.
(Apologies for the poor quality of Saturday's photos ... I think my old phone has finally reached the end of its usability).
The site was quite overgrown, and it looked like the collapse had been ongoing for some time as a lot of the stone was buried on the lower side of the wall.
Once we'd got things tidied up a bit it was clear that we didn't have enough stone to complete the job: this is quite common when repairing mortared walls with dry stone work, partly because some of the volume of the wall has previously been made of mortar, and partly because mortared walls have vertical (or near-vertical) sides, whereas dry stone walls need to be wider at the base.
There was, however, a lot of stone visible in the field, so we set off to quarry some, with varying degrees of success.
After having to give up on one stone which turned out to have iceberg-like hidden portions we managed to get a few barrow-loads, which was enough to be getting on with.
By about 3pm we reckoned we'd done enough, and Richard, John and I returned home, leaving Dave at the site where, after repast at the pub in nearby East Linton, he was camping for the night.
On Sunday we returned to find Dave had survived his night in the wild. Sam also brought his 'proper' camera, so despite it being a wetter day, Sunday's photos look much less like they're under water.
John couldn't make it along on Sunday, but his place was ably filled by Rosie, so we actually had one more dyker than the previous day, and the building continued apace.
By late morning we only needed to put the copes on - the only issue being that we didn't have enough. Richard went off to find some more.
In the end we had to cheat a bit and use a couple of pairs of smaller stones, but this shouldn't greatly weaken the wall, and it looks fine.
There's another, larger gap further down the wall: it's a pleasant site and it would be nice to go back, but they'll need to find a lot more stone to make it viable.
Thanks to good weather, great support from the Friends of the Pentlands (FotP) members and a good supply of building stone and hearting from Murray, the local farmer, on Sunday Dave and Richard managed to complete the wall by 3 pm. There was a useful supply of pre-cut copes available on site which made the final stage easier and quicker than expected. All that remains is for the FotP to go back on 6 May to assist with back filling and possible seeding with butterfly-friendly flowers and this wall will merge back into the landscape along with the wall we built last year.
Last year we worked with our long-time allies, the Friends of the Pentlands (FotP) to build a section of retaining wall on the Pentland Way at Garvald, near Dolphinton in the Scottish Borders. This year we're back again to complete the next section of the wall.
I'm happy to say last year's section is still intact, and looking good:
This year we're building a similar length to the right of the above, on the other side of the access path that runs up to the walk from Garvald farm. When we arrived yesterday, the FotP had already got some stone delivered to the site, and had dug a trench where the wall was to be situated.
The first job was to move the two huge stones in the foreground in the above photo into position. The FotP had spoken to the farmer about where they wanted them, he having a fork lift to do the job, but there had been some misunderstanding so some manual labour was required to re-position them. Once this had been achieved, one team got on with building the corner
while another started half way along the wall, where there were water pipes running just below. In order to prevent the weight of a few tons of stone pressing on the pipes, a culvert was constructed in the bottom of the wall using a large flat stone.
The forecast rain stayed away for the morning, and good progress was made by both teams.
By lunchtime the teams had almost met up, and the foundation course of the wall was nearly complete.
After lunch the rain started, but it was only a few drops - almost refreshing after lifting several tons of stone into the wall. The last few stones joining the two sections were inserted, and building continued on the upper courses.
By 4 pm we were just about up to through level, and ready to knock off for the day. Some of the FotP were camping at the site, and preparations for their evening's barbecue were getting under way, while those of us who had to leave headed off.
Work is due to resume today, and next weekend if needed - hopefully I'll have some photos of the completed wall soon.
On 18/19 March John and Richard and then Dave and Richard completed the retaining wall with stone sourced by Bruce from a supplier who deals in sand and gravel.
Although the stones are quite rounded they fit together quite pleasingly, as you can see.
Our chairman, Richard Love, has provided this report from work done recently on a retaining wall at our training site at the Scottish Lime Centre at Merryhill in Fife - thanks also to Rosie for the photos.
On Sunday 28 August I picked up Alan from the bus station and we headed off to Merryhill to carry on constructing a decent length of retaining wall (revetment in Dave-speak). There were just the two of us and Alan managed to shift a few barrowloads from the shrinking pile of rounded bouldery stone down to the site of the wall, where I had cleared enough grassy bank for a good solid foundation to go in. We worked on separate sections and hoped to complete some of it on our next visit.
On Saturday 3 September John D had to call off with a broken tooth but I was joined by Rosie, who had not worked on a retaining wall before, and we barrowed much more stone from the pile. This is getting increasingly welded together with the dried mud which accompanied the original load, so mattock and spade were needed to prise pieces apart. As you’ll see from the pictures, one section of the wall has been coped, another half-finished and a final section started by Rosie, who declared that she really enjoyed working with this stone on this wall.
My next visit there will be in two weeks for our last training course, so if anyone wishes to turn up, feel free to join us and complete the retaining wall.
Over the summer we provided demonstrations of dry stone walling at the Haddington and Peebles agricultural shows.
The day of the Haddington show started rainy, so we were glad they had provided us with some 'indoor' space alongside our building site.
The day brightened up, however, and we had a fair amount of interest in our activities.
And by the end of the day we'd managed to build a couple of meters of wall (and sold a few books and generated some interest in our courses).
The Peebles show was on one of the hottest days of one of the hottest summers on record.
The show started quietly, but the numbers built up as the day went on (as did the length of the queues at the ice-cream stalls). We benefitted from an unused gazebo set up next to our site, where people seemed happy to be able to sit in the shade for a bit and watch us work.
We didn't have so many sales at Peebles, but there were still plenty of people interested in learning the craft.
Last weekend we held another beginners' training course at the Scottish Lime Centre Trust in Fife. It went well by all accounts, and the results look excellent. Thanks once again to Stevie for the photos.
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).