The reason that we show the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane of the Battle of Britain Flight as our page heading here is because they have given us our own personal fly past during our course at Larkhill, Dobcross for the last two years……and this is them doing just that.



We saw 2018 out with our usual cosy Christmas gathering at the Cross Keys Inn above Uppermill with hot food, big fires and good company. Peter Taft’s musical quiz clearly showed that most of the company had misspent their youth and weren’t going to change. Our crazy raffle which requires us to provide the presents and buy the tickets raised over £70 for Dr Kershaw’s, our local hospice; once again many thanks to our members for their kind generosity.

Our 2019 programme is now under way. In spite of glutinous mud and bitter cold our two Practice Meets in January and February have been well supported with the usual good humour and amusing banter throughout.

Sometimes it is just not possible to get enough clothes on to keep warm AND move!


The elders who meet on Tuesdays have missed twice as a result of lying snow but otherwise they have been fully engaged and today (February 26th) in shirt-sleeve order beneath cloudless skies commenced another big section of gapping at Burnedge Bent Farm.


Burnedge Bent is our base as it was the farm belonging to Bryan Hough which is now farmed by his son Darren and the place where some of us were first introduced to the finer points of walling by Bryan himself.


One of the gaps we have repaired at the farm was huge and it was caused in an unusual and scary manner.

While out feeding the sheep one morning Darren came across two young men who looked suspicious and he asked them what they were doing. They took offence and immediately became aggressive, one pulled out a knife and threatened to stab Darren. He was on his own in a remote location confronted by two lunatics but fortunately in the cab of a big tractor. No way of knowing how genuine their threat was but they were sufficiently set on mischief to push down more than 10 metres of wall, most of which was almost 2 metres high, as they cleared off. Yes it was leaning and in need of repair but even so……….Sad times!

This year we will have something happening most weeks for members to take part in as they wish; there will be Practice Meets every month and we will run four training courses between now and October.

Our training course in May will take place at Gorse Hall Country Park, Stalybridge under the auspices of Tameside MBC whose warden service render great support. This location is splendid with fine Pennine views.  In the 19th Century it was the home of John Leech a wealthy industrialist who in 1835 built a mansion on the site with formal gardens and an orchard where he and his wife Jane brought up their 8 children. Their daughter Helen was to become the mother of Beatrix Potter and it is thought that Beatrix would have made visits to her grand-parents at Gorse Hall long before her move to Cumberland. The ‘Friends of Gorse Hall’ will celebrate their 20th year in May and our training course has been timed to coincide with the occasion.

As ever we will continue to provide affordable homes to all the critters that inhabit our walls and add great interest and enjoyment to our walling activities.


That was some summer but today at 1000’ on the Pennines winds were gusting to 40 mph, visibility was poor with light precipitation and snow flurries possible……. winter has arrived and I was sorry that I didn’t have my thermals on…… but we have had a great year.

Happily our membership has steadily increased. Local media has given us generous coverage, all of our courses have been fully booked and there has been a steady trickle of new active members wishing to continue their connection with the branch after completing a beginner’s course. We are now in danger of losing our small branch status.

As our area is on the edge of Greater Manchester with excellent transport connections and a superb network of footpaths we are constantly explaining what we are doing to passers by and we are very well known to people from the local villages who we see regularly. One of our special friends is Bill Leonard. Bill likes to get a walk every day and he is out, fine weather or foul, and often stops for a chat; he is a lovely guy with the courteous manner of yesteryear and we love catching up with him. Bill was 100 in September and we learned recently that he survived the evacuation from Dunkirk in World War Two… RESPECT. We want him to keep coming past so we made sure he had somewhere to take a rest on his walk by placing a very big through at a level made to measure for him. We hope he can enjoy it for many years to come.

BILL LEONARD in his 100th year making best use of a big through.




Throughout the year we have sought to increase our involvement with our local community. Members have helped with work at children’s homes, repairs to village church walls and assisted in passing on skills to groups that want to try and do things for themselves.

In the latter category are a drama group from Facit who wanted help with a collapsed retaining wall. Two days’ hard work and a lot of learning later and we had it all back in place. I don’t think any of us had ever used theatre staging to reach the top of a wall before.

Our AGM last week approved our programme for 2019. We hope it will be as challenging, interesting and enjoyable as our current year.


According to Geoffrey Boycott the intention of a bouncer which catches the batsman just under the heart was to keep the batsman honest. In Spring we received a few bouncers.
BOUNCER 1 :- For the first time ever we were forced to cancel a training course. Snow and ice covered the ground, access was impossible and with temperatures down to minus 17°C we had no choice but to postpone the course for March 17th and 18th.
BOUNCER 2:- The March course was rescheduled for April 14th and 15th. Our treasurer, Gill Bolshaw, spent much of Friday 13th April shifting stone, cutting back vegetation and tidying up the site. By mid-afternoon she had finished so returned home for a little gentle gardening where she slipped and landed badly on the edge of a kerbing slab. Admitted to hospital at 22:00 on Friday night with a broken hip, she had a full hip replacement operation at 11:00 the following morning, walked on the new hip on Sunday and was discharged from hospital on Monday. Two months later she is back cycling, hill walking and walling. I hope that everyone out there appreciates the jewel in our crown that is the NHS.
BOUNCER 3:- Katy our K9 walling companion took very ill and is no more. Hopeless at walling but with us in all weathers, a diplomat and a great ice-breaker she will be missed horribly.

Almost ‘All’s well that ends well’; subsequent courses have been very successful and produced fine stretches of substantial wall, Gill is en-route to 100% recovery and the toads, frogs, voles, shrews and hares that we meet constantly are getting used to us ……getting used to Katy not being around hasn’t happened yet.

As one of the sites we work at is on a very popular walking route we get a lot of positive comments about the work we are carrying out and we receive very flattering coverage in the local media. I often wonder if this couldn’t be converted into support for the DSWA through an associate membership for those who don’t want to get hands on. Forestry and Rivers and Canals do this – for an annual fee, members get a badge, a car sticker and a magazine. Something to think about?
Recently the branch hosted a selection day for aspirant bursary award apprentices. Our president, Carl Watson, ran an informal one-day course so that the applicants could get some idea of what dry stone walling entails. It was a lovely day and an excellent opportunity to meet Andy Loudon (Chief Examiner) and Linda Clarkson (Training and Education Coordinator) to let them know a little of what we get up to in our part of the Pennines.
Further afield, Chris and Howard travelled up to Gearstones Lodge in the Yorkshire Dales to help with the ongoing charity project and enjoy the heart-warming hospitality. In the coming months the branch will be engaged in a community project with the drama group who perform in the hall attached to St John the Evangelist Church in Whitworth.

We were surprised, honoured and humbled to receive the ‘Small Branch of the Year’ award for 2017. Thank you very much.




Anybody who thinks climate change isn’t happening doesn’t live in our area of the Pennines. Mud isn’t in it but happily, in spite of dire weather since November, all of our planned events have taken place. The branch has been in great form and shown determination in the face of adversity. Our Christmas gathering at the cosy Cross Keys Inn was the only dry meet and very enjoyable, enhanced this year by Peter Taft’s esoteric  and quiet musical quiz and enough tater pie to go round twice; as ever many, many thanks to the generosity of members who supported our local hospice through the raffle.

Gill and I managed to whimp off to the Mediterranean for the two meets so far this year – well done to those who braved the elements.

Our profile in the area has been enhanced immensely through the efforts of our secretary Paul Clayton (now a trustee of the association) and our member Peter Horridge whose skills as a graphic designer are invaluable. We have a steady trickle of new members and old members that we haven’t seen for a while. Local press has carried our publicity and Paul tells me that our 4 training courses this year are nearly full already. Additionally we are also hoping to host a mid week training course at the end of March for the ‘Help for Heroes’ charity which we are really looking forward to. When the weather is fine our training sites are superb so we are keeping everything crossed for a bit of drying fine weather.

It is obvious to me that the standard of work within the branch is improving both in the quality of work produced and the technical difficulty of work being undertaken; we have 4 members who will start work this year towards their advanced certificates and 1 who is hoping to qualify for the intermediate certificate – we wish them every success.

Three years ago our president Carl Watson took on Tracy Cumberbatch as one of the Bursary Trainees and under his guidance she gained her advanced level certificate. Since then Tracy has worked full time with Carl’s team of professionals and covered herself in nothing but glory and a lot of mud. That will stop! Having met another lady waller who works in Australia and has more work than she can handle Tracy is off to OZ for some mud free walling with snakes, spiders etc. – we have been impressed by her smiling determination and success and wish her Bon Voyage for her new venture.

Back home our programme contains varied challenges (Curves, retaining walls and gradients of course) at every level ………and miles to build before we sleep, we can’t wait to get stuck in.


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



Winter Newsletter 2009

Summer Newsletter 2008