SAD NEWS:- Our president Bryan Hough passed away 30th September 2017.

BRYAN HOUGH 1932 – 2017 – President of the Lancashire Branch DSWA

Bryan was born and bred in Saddleworth and his life reflects the history of hill farming in the South Pennines in the latter half of the 20th Century.

His origins were humble and like many of his generation he was required to leave school in order to begin work and contribute to the family income.

As a young man he was a keen rugby player for Saddleworth Rangers; ‘not fast but unstoppable’, often to be seen heading for the try line with several opponents hanging from him – quite believable if you knew him in his prime. Indeed his bob hat with the Saddleworth Rangers’ badge was placed on top of his coffin.

For a big man he was a good ballroom dancer and as a handsome young man he was never short of partners, his teachers recognised his talents and he was asked to act as MC at ballroom dances for the Students Union – I can imagine him taking it in his stride. But his heart was set on becoming a hill farmer and he took every opportunity to develop and extend his farming knowledge becoming qualified and expert in many areas. Always a generous man he shared his knowledge and expertise willingly. He became a respected teacher. Bryan excelled at rearing animals and in a challenging environment at different times he successfully bred and reared mice, pigs, sheep and cattle. His White Short Horn and Galloway cattle were his pride and joy and he was regarded as an expert receiving international regard from other breeders who came from far and wide to learn from him at Burnedge Bent Farm.

In dry stone walling circles he was famous. He was the founder of the Lancashire Branch, its mentor and principle instructor for many years and the branch consider Burnedge Bent Farm as their base. Most of the older members were taught by him and remember that experience with fondness. It was always a joy to have a day with Bryan as he was invariably a kindly teacher and he could tell you that you had made a mess of things without being discouraging. I never spent a day with Bryan without learning something significant and like many others I came to regard him as a real friend. He was a Master Craftsman and his walling expertise and experience placed him on a much bigger stage; as a member of the management committee for more than 40 years and the national president for several years he took an active and very keen interest in the affairs of the DSWA. He had superb social skills and was naturally friendly and quite at home with aristocrats and royalty alike; I wonder how many people got Christmas cards from the Duchess of Devonshire invariably signed ‘Debbie’, but he never forgot his roots and was always available to give advice and guidance to the branch.

Bryan had a warm personality and he liked the company of wallers and he contributed hugely and generously to our social occasions over tater pie and a pint. Happily In recent years Bryan managed to write an autobiography entitled ‘Bryan Hough – Farmer and so much more’ which he leaves as a legacy of his full and varied life.

We will remember Bryan as a profoundly good man, a gentle man and a gentleman. He was kindly and generous natured and always pleasant to be with.

He was our president and we are deeply saddened at his passing. We feel proud to have known him and he will be greatly missed.

Donations in his memory were made to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice which the branch has supported for many years and where Bryan was cared for in the final days of his life.

Of course our thoughts at this time are with Rose and family to whom we extend our love and sincere condolences.

Chris Bolshaw on behalf of the Lancashire Branch DSWA



Sadly we have to report the death of our president Bryan Hough who many of you will have known through the DSWA. The branch will miss his company, advice and guidance immensely.

The branch has been active throughout the year. In July we did a demonstration at Saddleworth Show and managed to build a stile into a wall that has been needed for years. Good to do something that isn’t pulled down afterwards.

Visitors were plentiful and Val and Paul made sure they had plenty of information about our activities in the local area. Our social in August took place on one of those miserable days with the mist swirling about as we walked over to The Alderman and Pots and Pans.

Great that nobody seemed bothered as the craich was excellent and continued into late afternoon over a meal and a few drinks in the welcoming Cross Keys above Uppermill.

Those who survived storm Brian on the Training Course at Larkhill October 2017 and built 20m of wall…..and still smiling – a super bunch of people.

Trainees who spent two lovely days with us in August and built a very fine stretch of wall along Larkhill Road.

Our two training courses in August and October were very successful and produced almost 40m of very sound wall. The August course took place in perfect conditions and was something of a first for us as it was the first training course where the ladies outnumbered the men (7:5) and as in previous years the battle of Britain flight came over to keep an eye on us. The October course had 14 trainees and despite being buffeted by storm Brian they got stuck in and produced more than 20m of excellent wall.

These courses are well supported by our members and I do feel that they benefit from having to explain the principles of the craft to trainees. This year 6 of our members have taken and passed tests; five at level 2 and one at level 1 and one member has embarked on training as an instructor. The improving skill levels in the branch are quite apparent in the work that is being produced.

Our monthly practice meets are always enjoyable especially the meet in October when we were joined by Trevor, Alex and Kate from ‘just overt’top’ in West Yorkshire.

We held our AGM on Wednesday 25th October when we were very happy to have Lydia Noble along to see what we get up to. The general feeling was that the branch is doing very well and a new programme was approved for 2018 which should give everybody a chance to improve their skills further. The big projects that we have been engaged in are reaching completion and happily there are lots of other challenges awaiting our attention.


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.





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