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.
NEWSLETTERS & NOTES
MAY 17th 2021 After almost 14 months of inactivity the branch picked up where it left off to work on the retaining wall at Ridge Farm, Diggle where we last worked in March 2020.
Branch Round-Up Lancashire Branch November2020
Greetings from the Lancashire Baking Club.
Well it might as well be as all our normal walling activities have been curtailed: no Practice Meets and no courses, and that strikes me as rather odd – building and repairing our glorious dry-stone walls must rank amongst the healthier of past-times.
So in lieu of walling the baking is very much to the fore once again with bread still prominent. Parkin has started to show and pumpkin recipes are making an appearance.
On matters official we are able to report that All our Branch officers are continuing in situ although the AGM obviously had to be conducted virtually. Some of the new technology has its uses even if the novelty of zoom wears thin after a while.
Given the paucity of activities to report on I thought I would do some research into our local stone. In this Yorkshire part of Lancashire much of what we build with is Millstone Grit and from which one of our local breweries – Millstone – draws its name. Their Tiger Rut (beer) is by the way World Class. Anyway, I digress.
Millstone Grit, and its many sub-groups, is found predominantly in an arc spanning the towns of Hyde, Mossley, Oldham and Littleborough with smaller outcrops in Rochdale and Bolton. Much of the Oldham formations are found on Saddleworth Moor where the Branch does the majority of its work. Indeed, the oldest building stones in Greater Manchester are derived from this Carboniferous Namurian Millstone Grit Group. These ‘gritstones’are grey, coarse-grained, feldspar-rich, pebbly sandstones and many of the original Saddleworth villages were built using this stone.
In the town of Oldham itself and very close to the town centre Chamber rock was quarried and this was the source for Chamber Hall (Coppice) which was known to date back to at least 1640 and possibly even the thirteenth century. Testament to the stones’ resilience and given our local climate just as well.
If my researches in to local stone are of interest, I am happy to provide more if there is interest although it would be pleasing to be able to provide a walling report for the next issue.
All the best from the Lancashire Branch and however it pans out we wish our fellow wallers a good Christmas.
Branch Round-Up Lancashire Branch June 2020
So much has change d for us all since the last submissions to Waller &
Dyker. There is, at least for now one constant, our beautiful Dry Stone
Walls. These stout monuments in our countryside are reminders of
where we came from and decorate our countryside like elegant lace
trails. Sadly, for the time being the repairs to these walls have been
muted here in the Lancashire Branch as like everyone we have been
forced to suspend our training courses.
Fortunately, Lancashire Branch has its own WhatsApp group and
members have done their best to support each other over these last
fourteen weeks initially with many light- hearted postings of which this
is a not untypical example:
The Seven Dwarves have been told that from Monday, they can meet
in groups of six. One of them isn’t happy.
Latterly the postings have moved on to discussions about food and
drink but the humour remains – “please open the pubs before I
become an alcoholic.”
It is apparent that we have quite a number of avid bread bakers and
keen home cooks nicely topped off with some dedicated oenophiles.
Just the sort of subjects to lift the spirits in these depressing times.
More recently and doubtless in response to the improving weather
conditions there has been much discussion of “backyard” walling
projects. One of our members has built a blackcurrant orchard and
tidily surround e d it with dry stone walls. Meanwhile, our new
National Chairman, Mr Paul Clayton doesn’t let a weekend go by
without building something. Currently, the footings are going in for
the new pizza oven so this will probably be able to supply the whole of
Saddleworth once it is operational.
The absence of Training Courses has been missed by many members
and so with a socially- distanced colleague I decided to look in to the
possibilities of Dry Stone Walling whilst fully PPE’d. As everyone
knows this pesky corona gets everywhere.
The attached pictures will show the efforts made. Ladies and
gentlemen when it is 25 degrees in the shade a full PPE outfit is NOT
First, we start with the full-length medical gown, then the disposable
apron, the disposable gloves, the mask and then the full-face visor.
For added safety I also wore my safety glasses.
The first stone I picked up shredded my disposable gloves so I
reverted to my normal walling gloves. Trying to work in the field with
all this gear on was not just hot and uncomfortable but sadly,
dangerous – movement is restricted, the mask steams up the visor,
breathing is difficult and to top it all stones covered in hundreds of
years of cow poo are hardly going to be lacking in infectious microbes.
The conclusion is that PPE Walling is an absolute non- starter.
The Walling days will return and we will once more march
purposefully in to the fields of this beautiful land.
From all at the Lancashire Branch, look after yourselves and stay
Don’t forget: Your Walls Need You
Paul Stevenson (Lancashire Branch)
Branch Round-Up Lancashire Branch March 2020
For those members of the Branch fortunate to have been able to take
part in the Reeth Wallathon the abiding memories are of fine walling,
good company and a terrific sense of a community “coming togethe r.”
The announcement of a further Wallathon this Spring was soon fully
In November the Branch were pleased to host colleagues from
Cheshire Branch and a big thank you for their fine efforts at Ridge
Our Christmas bash was held once again at the Cross Keys Inn at
Uppermill. Special guests this year included Richard and Natalie from
Ridge Farm and it was a pleasure to have their company. As we had
such a large number in attendance, we were fortunate to be
accommodated in a small function room. We had delightful local food
with a choice of two Lancashire favourites – ‘tater pie, or cheese and
onion, Peter Taft’s ridiculously hard pop quiz for grown- ups and much
relaxing banter; all washed down with some commend a ble ales from
John Willie Lees.
As for most Branches January proved to be a difficult month weatherwise. The first Practice Meet of the year was miserable by all accounts
and some of us took the difficult decision to stay at home. Wimps?
February has proved even worse and the incessant rainfall has meant
that even on dry days some of our sites are still unusable because the
ground is water- logged and unsafe, although there have not yet been
any reports of trench foot. Sadly, February’s Practice Meet was called
off owing to the conditions.
The March Practice Meet was very well supported with new members
adding to the veterans list and bodes well for the rest of the year.
Like most Branches we are hoping for a cessation in the incessant
rainfall and a sincere wish that none of us fall victim to “pop flu,” aka
Coronavirus, because we have a full programme ahead and lots of
walls to build.
Finally, therefore, if any Branches / colleagues would like to join us
this year for a day on the Millstone Grit – that’s walling not drinking
beer – then please get in touch via our Secretary Paul Clayton, or
Chairman Chris Bolshaw. Please be advised that as we are not yet full
beneficiaries of global warming Saddleworth can be a coolish place so
bring a spare pully.
Branch Round-Up – Lancashire Branch October 2019
As the Summer got under way our exhibition skills were put on
display once more at the Saddlewort h Show (June). Although we had a
fine day in front we did lack one vital ingredient from the off – Stone.
Fortunat ely, our Diplomatic Head and Branch Secret ary, Paul Clayton
soon rectified this with the organisers and we set to. Sometimes,
perhaps we sell ourselves too cheaply.
Our monthly Practice Meets continued throughout the Summe r and
for some of the novices our Tuesday, weekly “Old Retirees Club”
provided not just fresh air and walling, but far ranging philosophical
discussion on Brexit, global warming – or lack of, this being
Saddleworth, and the price of beer.
Over the weekend of 19 th to 21 st of July, following their kind invitation
we had the honour of working at The Royal Lancashire (RLS) show
and were pleased to have our Branch President, Carl Watson working
alongside. The weekend was shared betwee n members and over a
dozen made the trip to Preston to contribute. Our efforts were
sufficient to secure a further invitation to next year’s RLS and given
their enthusias m for our work I am sure there will be no shortag e of
volunteers in 2020.
The following weekend, and with little notice, we were asked to
provide a further exhibition of walling at the Saddleworth Yorkshire
Day; a memorable day if only for the rain.
In addition to our scheduled two Training courses at Ridge Farm –
both well attende d – we manage d to include an impromptu Training
course at Denshaw Church where the trainees, ably led by our newly
qualified Instructor Neil Beevor and grandly supporte d by Church
wardens (tea and home- made cakes), rebuilt 20 metres of Millstone
wall. This was a particularly satisfying weekend as our efforts
involved local people supporting their own community. Truly putting
All in all the Branch has had one busy but very enjoyable Summe r.
While we work throughout the Winter, weather permitting, the pace
slows although enthusias m across the Branch continues to build – just
like our walls.
BRANCH ROUND-UP – LANCASHIRE BRANCH JUNE 2019
The branch is in good heart.
Skill levels within the branch are clearly improving and we have a steady trickle of new members and returners. Jacqui, one of our returners, came all the way from Australia; having completed a beginners’ course two years ago she was keen to resume walling when she got back to UK – she has joined the association and been a regular participant in all our activities over recent months. Very happily one of our members, Neil Beevor, has completed the Instructors’ Course and is now well on his way to fully qualifying as an instructor through the experience he will gain at our forthcoming training courses.
We have been keen to engage with our community which gives us a lot of positive feedback and our local media helps massively with our publicity. Following a taster session at Denshaw Church last year we will be running a course for them in September to help with their ongoing repairs to the church wall which is topped entirely with hundreds of hand-shaped triangular toppers.
Our two training courses in March and May were very successful. At Roundhill Farm, Dobcross, 18 trainees with the help of branch members built 30 m of solid stockproof wall. The course for Tameside MBC at Gorse Hall produced another 20m of new wall in the country park’s perimeter. From the course participants 6 have become members of the association.
We did have an interesting day for our Practice Meet at Burnedge Bent Farm in March. You might say a typical Pennine day – mist to start, then light rain turning to sleet followed by snow which cleared to leave blue skies and bright sunshine with steaming ground….MUD everywhere. By mid afternoon the atmosphere was gin clear with views to the Welsh hills across the Cheshire Plain.
The task was to repair a huge gap in one of the 7’ shelter walls; given the conditions the branch did amazingly well to rebuild 60% of the wall. Great day – it had that St Crispin’s feel about it!
On one memorable mid-week session at Burnedge Bent Farm we were surrounded by Curlews trilling all day as they sought their nesting sites. As curlew numbers have fallen dramatically this was heartening but where have all the hares gone? ……not a sighting this year in our area.
BRANCH ROUND-UP – LANCASHIRE BRANCH FEBRUARY 2019
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.
A TALE FOR THE TIMES WE LIVE IN
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.
BRANCH ROUND UP – LANCASHIRE BRANCH NOVEMBER 2018
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.
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.
BRANCH ROUND UP – LANCASHIRE BRANCH JUNE 2018
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.
BRANCH ROUND UP – LANCASHIRE BRANCH FEBRUARY 2018
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
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
BRANCH ROUND UP LANCASHIRE BRANCH OCTOBER 2017
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.
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.
BRANCH ROUND UP LANCASHIRE BRANCH JUNE 2017
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.