Today (how's that for rapid publication) we had a practical dyking outing to the Harlaw reservoir, in the Pentland Hills to the south of Edinburgh. I arrived pretty late (I had birthday present buying duties for my son, who has just turned seven) - it was very windy, with squally showers.
I couldn't remember exactly where the build was, but set off optimistically across the Harlaw dam with the kids in tow. However, it was so windy we almost couldn't walk against it, and there was no sign off any dykers on the far side of the reservoir. The nippers were hating being blown about so we headed back, but then Sam noticed a note stuck in the visitor centre letterbox. This turned out to be from branch secretary Dave, and said he'd be working on the left (Edinburgh) side. So we set off again - this time somewhat sheltered by the trees along that side of the reservoir.
The wall here appeared to be mostly dry stone, but with a mortared cope. This, dear reader, is rarely a successful way to build a dry stone wall, as inevitably subsidence - however slight - means that the top row of stones in the wall below the cope become detached from it and are no longer held in place by the weight of the stones above them. This had happened at several points, and in a few places the stones had started to fall out, leaving holes in the wall. After about five minutes walk we found Dave, sitting in the shelter of the wall by one such gap to eat his lunch.
As no-one else had turned up we decided that this particular gap was too big for us to tackle, especially as it was already early afternoon. So, gathering a barrow-load of spare stone from a nearby brook, we headed back to a much smaller hole not far from the visitor centre. And, in time-honoured fashion, I forgot to take a 'before' picture before we started taking out the mortared cope. So you'll just have to imagine this gap with the cope continuing along across the top of it, like some sort of weird bridge for squirrels.
The children headed back to the visitor centre to escape the by now very blustery wind while Dave and I cleared out the loose stones.
And after cleaning the mortar from the copestones, we put them all back in again.
It was just as well we'd picked up that barrow load of extra stone as we only just had enough to complete the wall. And we ended up with a gap in the cope (at the right above) as we no longer had the mortar between the copes. But it's much better than it was, and we can complete the coping next time we're in the vicinity.
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).