Friday, 27 February 2009

Building a dry stone wall

I have an awful lot of rocks and stones in my garden, and in clearing out the worst of them from the flower beds, it's difficult not to end up with some kind of wall. And I have a lot of rocks that seem to have been created by magic during the renovation project. But I need a proper wall to separate an area of garden from an area of wild box bushes that are protected by law, and that I'm therefore not allowed to touch.

So I have been building a dry stone wall, slowly, when I don't have more pressing projects, over a period of some months so far. Over the last several days I have been working on it. It takes a lot of rocks.

My wall has a cross-section of about a metre squared, so it takes about a metre cubed of rocks to make a metre length of wall. That's about 15 wheelbarrow loads, and of course the rocks are all the other side of the garden. They're heavy. It funny how for years I have looked at dry stone walls, and thought nothing of them. I am starting to appreciate just how much effort they represent.

To build a good wall you need the biggest, heaviest rocks on the bottom. Their positioning defines where the wall goes. The rocks should get steadily smaller as you go up, but the smallest rocks (or bits of concrete, rubble, etc) go in the middle. The smaller rocks slip into the gaps between the bigger ones and prevent them from moving, so giving strength to the wall.

And as I work, two poems come to mind. Goodness knows why I made even the small effort needed to learn this one when I was younger, but I think I liked the nonsense of it, especially of using dry stone wall as a verb:

I am a dry stone waller,
All day I dry stone wall,
Of all apalling callings,
Dry stone walling's
Worst of all.
Pam Ayres

And also of the poem "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost. It starts "Something there is that doesn't love a wall" and it makes me wonder what will happen to this wall over the years of its life.

You can see the biggest rocks at the bottom edges, the smaller ones in the middle

The wall so far. The darker stones in the foreground are the ones I have added recently. Unlike the more distant ones, they haven't been washed bright by the rain yet.

1 comment:

Tim Trent said...

Good old Pam Ayres. She's still packing them in to auditoriums. or is that auditoria?

For your garden, perhaps "The Flit Gun" is useful?

My mother had a Flit gun,
It was not devoid of charm.
A bit of Flit
Shot out of it;
The rest shot up her arm

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