We have enjoyed benign conditions for our activities through Spring and into Summer.  Our ongoing large projects, the repair of 400m of lime mortared wall and the rebuilding of 350m of lane boundary wall are reaching the final stages and I must say they look mighty fine…and we have a varied queue of projects awaiting our attention.

Our monthly Practice Meets are always enjoyable and it is obvious that skills are improving. On the theme of improvement our members have been successful in the tests they have been taking. Several have passed at level 2 and one is currently preparing for his level 2 test and our secretary, Paul Clayton,   has recently completed his instructor’s course and is looking forward to engaging with trainees at our Training Courses through August and October.

Under the auspices of Tameside MBC we completed our first Training Course of the year at Gorse Hall in Stalybridge. Once again an absolutely splendid group of 14 trainees completed 20+ meters of wall. It does help when the sun shines and you are walling in the shade of trees in blossom.



During May Chris, Gill and Peter travelled up to Gearstones Lodge near Ribblehead in the Yorkshire Dales to help with the rebuilding of the walls surrounding the property.  This charity project is organised by folk who know how to do hospitality – they are a pleasure to be with. Many thanks to them and Trevor Womack for their many kindnesses.

Peter and Chris working on Yorkshire’s only submarine pen.

Dales wallers with Penyghent in the background



Our final Training Course of 2016 in October got the best of the autumn weather and the superb group of trainees cracked on with a will to build a fine stretch of new wall. The skies threatened all order of diabolical weather but for once nothing unpleasant happened. During November we overcame the glutinous mud to finish our uphill project at Ridge Farm and rounded off the year with a hot pot social at The Cross Keys above Uppermill. Once again our members showed their generosity by first bringing prizes for the raffle and then buying tickets to win them back with all proceeds going to our local hospice.

I think the long lay-off over Christmas made everyone restless as our January Practice Meet attracted a huge turn out to tackle the big curve at Round Hill Farm which was duly finished. Winter started to show itself in February and I had to admire the spirit of members who turned out for the Practice Meet in bitter conditions with the added attraction of horizontal snow. Everyone just about kept warm by dismantling and digging out an old wall in preparation for our return in April. By dinner time everyone had lost the feeling in their hands and as the snow was getting more persistent  we called it a day.

The heavens smile on us

Our president Bryan Hough, an ex-DSWA president, has become an author. Entitled “Bryan Hough, farmer and so much more” he has written the story of his life – how he became a farmer and the changing way of life on a Pennine farm through the post war years of the 20th century. As Bryan taught many of us to wall it is of immediate interest and records how the craft has been sustained in our area. The book is available from Bryan and through outlets in the Saddleworth area.



Since spring the branch has been busy and through the formal and informal meets built many metres of wall. We have had a steady trickle of new members including a married couple from Bulgaria. Be interesting to see if we are required to produce a Brexit policy.

Chris, Gill and Peter travelled up to the Yorkshire Dales during May to answer the request for walling help from the trustees of Gearstones Lodge which is a community facility organised privately by a group from Mirfield. Situated just above Ribblehead on the road to Hawes, the lodge is beautifully placed with spectacular views of Ingleborough. Trevor Womack greeted us warmly and we were soon ‘at it’. The Mirfield ladies fed and watered us royally and by the end of the day the job was finished in the form of a fine new boundary wall in snowy limestone at the rear of the property. We loved it and will certainly be helping next year if the diary permits. Grand folk though.

In the middle of August we ran our second course of the year at Round Farm, Dobcross. Once again we had a superb group of trainees who set about the task before them with a will. By mid afternoon on Sunday they had built and topped a rather fine stretch of wall for complete novices. Kevin went metal detecting, those from outside our area made for home and the rest got stuck into another section of wall with only slight supervision from the instructor. It was obvious they had been listening and three of them have joined the DSWA and are now branch members.

Of course we try and arrange distractions for our course participants and this year we requested a fly past by the Battle of Britain flight. So there we were walling away, concentrating on stone choice, batter and avoiding running joints when, from the south, they appeared. We cheered the locally built Lancaster and her Spitfire and Hurricane escorts as they roared overhead and disappeared from view along one of the local valleys. Having got back to the task in hand, no sooner had we picked a stone up than here they came again; this time much lower and straight at us in perfect formation. Clearly they were fascinated by what we were up to. But here’s the thing – they were back again in September and flew over us on the Sunday of our practice meet. Obviously they are getting interested in the walling that’s going on.

Battle of Britain Flight checking us out at Larkhill

Battle of Britain Flight checking us out at Larkhill

I have been very impressed by the improving skills of our members. Several are reaching levels of proficiency which would have seemed remarkable a year ago and they are now quite capable of taking on projects within our programme on their own. Four are currently waiting to take tests at Initial(1) and Intermediate(3) levels. Sadly they have found it very difficult to find test venues, a problem which the DSWA should look into.

Given our location in the Pennines and experiences earlier in the year only one of our Practice Meets or Training Courses have been spoilt by bad weather. The only other day that was dampish was our social walk in August. Up on to th’edge to visit Amon Wrigley’s (local dialect poet) memorial, shrouded in ‘moor grime’ and seeing nowt.  We dropped below the mist to descend Boat Road, so called as it was used to take the horses ‘over’  as they were not required on the Huddersfield Canal stretch from Diggle to Marsden, there being no towpath through Standedge Tunnel –  it was up to the leggers now to get the boats through while the horses and their handlers had a stroll over,  no doubt putting in at ‘The Floating Light’ and ‘The Great Western’   en route. Didn’t see any horses on this occasion but we soon reached the very welcoming Diggle hotel for a meal .

Our local profile is in the ascendant, due in no small part to the efforts of our member Peter Horridge who is a graphic designer when not walling. He has produced beautiful flyers, posters, bookmarks and adverts that appear in the local press and are clearly getting across what we are about. On the same theme Chris has been asked to give a talk on walling next month at Lydgate village hall and he will be rattling his box for Dr Kershaw’s, our local hospice.

This last week we had our AGM. We dealt with the usual matters and set out a new programme for 2017 – lots of challenges, not obvious just from dates and venues. Can’t wait to get at it and get to know our new members a little better. No doubt this time next year some of them will be itching to do tests.

Chris  Bolshaw

Branch Round Up – Lancashire Branch  – June 2016

With more than 200 tons of stone waiting to find its way into walls our ongoing projects are keeping us busy. We have been making good progress in our meets but our Practice Meet in May was a very wet affair and our attempt to re-run it a week later collided with Father’s Day so we didn’t get much done. With things drying out in our part of The Pennines and improving weather we anticipate a lot of walling through the summer months.

For almost 20 years we have had a very happy working relationship with Tameside MBC, having run courses under their banner at Hartshead Pike near Ashton-under-Lyne. By 2015 all the necessary walling at the site had been completed and we had trained so many of their volunteers that they could do it themselves anyhow, so we thought the relationship would end there – not so. Peter Longbottom, one of their rangers, asked us if we would be interested in running a course for them in 2016 at their Gorse Hall Country Park.

The 35acre park of woodland and meadows is beautifully situated above Stalybridge with views over Manchester, Cheshire and The Pennines which may be why John Leech decided in 1835 to build Gorse Hall Mansion. John and Janet Leech had eight children, one of whom, Helen, was to become the mother of Beatrix Potter who visited her grandparents regularly before moving north to the Lake District.

From a walling point of view the site was perfect. The course was full, the trainees were a joy and the weather warm and sunny. We were asked to rebuild a 20m section of collapsed boundary wall which the trainees did in style to the complete satisfaction of the ranger and Friends of Gorse Hall who have overall responsibility for the park. While dismantling the ruined wall we came across a large gritstone plaque depicting an industrial mill scene from the days when Dukinfield and Stalybridge were mill towns. Our member Howard Lunn made a fine job of building it into the new wall in a prominent position for all to see. The two days were thoroughly enjoyable for all concerned.


When we received the Spring edition of W&D we were very proud to learn that our member Adam Clarke was one of the recipients of this year’s Pinnacle Award. Adam doesn’t give much away so we had no idea what he had been up to. ‘The Hive’ which he and Lydia Noble built is a staggering piece of work displaying a wide range of very high order skills – congratulations to both of them. The double corbelled roof fascinated me. Having built the thing I think it shows some confidence in your own work to give it a thorough sweeping.

43 The Round House (7)

Recently (June 26th) the branch flew the DSWA flag at Saddleworth show. As always they were very well received by both organisers and the public – they answered questions, displayed technique and recruited a few potential members – they did us proud. Thanks to John Lancashire for delivering and removing stone free of charge, Paul Clayton for all the organising and Peters(2) and Val for being there when it counts.

Chris Bolshaw


Branch Round Up – Lancashire Branch – February 2016

As in previous years we rounded off 2015 with a cosy hot pot at the Cross Keys above Uppermill. Over 20 members and friends managed to make it with enough donated gifts to raise £50 through the raffle for our local hospice. Once more thanks again for your generosity. One notable absentee though was Brenda Koo, our ex-secretary, who had her hands full fighting Desmond off – the storm silly, not domestic violence.
Living east of Sedbergh on the southern flanks of East Bough Fell her house was right in the path of storms ripping in from the west. She was flooded and flooded again by the run-off from the fells above the hamlet where she lives. Nothing we could do to help but we did sympathise with her plight and all the others in Cumbria that were getting such a battering.

Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Henry and Imogen managed to time their arrivals to our area so that they would not interfere with our programme. We worked through December as planned if a little wet at times. Eva gave us a seeing-to on a very steep lane on December 23rd. Our local council is not good at maintenance and clearance of grids in rural areas has been neglected, consequently the drains cannot deal with the biblical volumes of rainfall that we experienced. As the water rushed down the lane over the tops of my boots it scoured out the banking underneath the walls. On this occasion they did not come down but now, after Frank, Henry and Imogen have done their worst, everything is a bit more shaky.
Of course it all produces work for wallers as our narrow, twisting lanes are soon blocked when walls collapse but it is a shame to see damage being caused because of a lack of sensible maintenance. Rant over!

I do not know how we have done it but amidst the meteorological chaos our Practice Meets in January and February have taken place in fine sunny weather, if a bit nippy. We continue the very big projects in the Dobcross area at Round Hill Farm which will last throughout the year. On Valentine’s Day we began a project at Ridge Farm, Diggle to build a new 35m stretch of wall up a 35° slope to produce a containing paddock for horses. It’s a lovely location and the farmer, Richard Winterbottom prepared the site, delivered several tons of stone, made us very welcome and generously sponsored our efforts with donations to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice.

Walling folk deserving a special mention are Bryan and Zoe.
Unfortunately our president, Bryan Hough, has not been enjoying the best of health recently and he has just spent 3 weeks in hospital and is looking like it. You know Bryan is not on form when he says he has no appetite. The good news is that he is back home and with Rose looking after him he will regain his strength. We all hope so.
Zoe will be very busy in March taking time out from teaching and walling to add a small member to the branch roll call. All best wishes from your walling friends Zoe and do remember that all our walling sites are ‘baby friendly’.

At long last our website ( is up and running and accessible to all although we are still at the foot of a steepish learning curve. Our programme outlined there has new challenges and learning opportunities for ourselves, guests and trainees and we have members keen and eager to complete tests. We are getting well known in our area and Chris has been asked to give a talk at a local village about walls and walling.

We are looking forward to all of it – we just need it to dry up a bit.

Chris Bolshaw





Winter Newsletter 2009

Summer Newsletter 2008