Dry Stone Waller in Gloucestershire ….. but with a 30 year background in IT.
FOR THOSE WHO WONDER WHY I BECAME A DRY STONE WALLER, THIS IS MY STORY AND BACKGROUND.
Starting with an IT degree and then by using an affinity for organisation, hard work, people and machines, I worked my way up through key technical, managerial and sales positions in several of the largest and most prestigious IT corporations in the world. Latterly I worked in a much sought-after but high-pressure, presales Solutions Architect position with one of the world’s largest global IT Consultancy’s, who have to remain nameless.
I was responsible for the development and costing of technological designs and the documentation of these solutions encompassing all non-functional requirements and was the technical authority for briefing the service delivery teams.
In this position I drew upon multiple IT disciplines combined with broad technical, architectural, business and softer skills which I used to engage and collaborate with varied stakeholders including subject matter experts, service managers, clients, third parties and technology vendors to safeguard the design and delivery of technical and business solutions.
Then (assuming you are still reading) ….. on the spur of the moment, as something to do on a free weekend, I took a Dry Stone Walling beginners course where I had an awakening, becoming conscious of the positivities to be gained from a “digital detox” and became hooked on a lifestyle which embraced;
the majesty of physical exercise, breathing fresh air, beholding the beauty of nature and the extensive outdoor lifestyle,
making physical exertions to become physically tired at the end of the day, instead of just mentally exhausted,
doing something sustainable, important to our nations heritage and breathing fresh air,
being a part of nature; cold when it was cold, wet when it rained and warm when the sun shone,
seeing a direct correlation between my efforts and progress,
getting away from it all, without the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) knowing I am doing my part in preserving the heritage of my country and understanding the role of walls in the preservation of flora and fauna in the wild and
ultimately being satisfied with the solid, tangible, beautiful and persevering end result!
Several more-advanced courses later, in the beautiful landscape of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), plus Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) certifications received …. I decided to leave behind the corporate safeties and extra benefits to do something more creative, wholesome, stress-busting and environmentally conscious.
I also discovered that many of my core-life competencies were almost directly transferable from my last CV e.g.
Accomplished, adaptable, enthusiastic, highly motivated and results orientated
A strong team collaborator with leadership and relationship building skills
Able to produce high-quality, credible designs and play these back in a clear form to the reader at all levels using diagrams and documentation
A proven ability to work to exacting deadlines, work under pressure with tenacity and determination to overcome obstacles and deliver what is required
A balanced approach with customer facing ability, can quickly analyse requirements to find a design to fit the brief
Supportive with customers in their intended transformation
Honest and trustworthy (backed by high-level Security clearances)
Able to use innovative ‘blue sky’ approaches or repeatable design depending upon the risk appetite.
A broad range of current skills that are constantly developing as I grow within this new career!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Local stone is perfect for dry stone walling as it blends naturally with its surroundings
How much does it cost to build a wall?
Walling is one of the most durable and attractive of all the boundaries available, but they are not the cheapest form of enclosure. The expense mainly arises because walling is labour intensive and may involve considerable materials and haulage costs. Other significant factors include ease of access to the site, space around it for laying out stone and the implications of where a wall is to be positioned. The quality of finish also affects the cost, as ornamental pieces take longer to build than field walls for instance.
When can you start?
Currently I am booking work about 6 months in advance.
How long will it take?
Being trained in the art by the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and having experience of practice working on field quality walls, where time is of the essence, l know I am able to build this standard of wall quite quickly (as a rule of thumb you could consider a speed of about 2 metres per day of a straight build above level foundations).
However a higher quality garden wall, those retaining a bank, on a slope, or walls in less than ideal locations will take longer.
It is also dependent on many other factors, for example working and layout space and the weather, which can can make timescales less predictable.
However being a committed professional you can be sure that I will communicate with you every step of the way
How can I trust you to carry out the work to the standards that I require?
I am a professional member of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain (DSWA) who seek to promote best practice within the craft of dry stone walling.
The DSWA take seriously any complaints received against members and follow up reports of below-standard walling with the professionals concerned.
I am well read, well trained and have a vested interest in achieving a standard of work that will build up a flow of satisfied customers who will provide me with testimonials and work references for years to come.
How to build a wall?
Ideally source quality stone as the walling stone needs to be weather resistant, strong and preferably flat.
First clear the ground where you are going to build your stone wall of any obstructions. Then mark the line of the wall out with string. A shallow trench is then to be dug, for the foundations. The width of the wall at the base will depend on the height of the stone wall.
The main principles of building a dry stone wall are:
Keep the joints between each stone as tight as possible
The face (smartest and straightest) stone is to be selected for the outside of the wall
The stone at the bottom of the wall will be the flattest and largest.
The gap between the two outer facing stones, in the middle of the stone wall should be filled in with hearting (appropriately sized infill stones to prevent movement).
Each layer of the outer facing stones should have the principle of ‘two over one and one over ‘.
Throughstones should be laid at regular intervals.
The stone wall should narrow as it gets higher.
The capping stones need to be preferably heavy and span the width of the wall. The stone wall cap is essential for the longevity of the wall as well as the aesthetic look.
Most of the principles above will promote the strength and stability of the natural stone wall that should last for generations and look beautiful.
Click on the below to link to a good book on subject:
A Guide to Dry Stone Walling
Are you insured?
Do you only build Cotswold dry stone walls?
I have worked with stone from the Cotswolds, the Mendips, Cumbria, Yorkshire, the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley and from different geological seams e.g. a Triassic sandstone marl in the Charfield area.
If requested and I consider it the correct course of action, I will sometimes mortar the coping stones or perhaps cap a wall with either a sharp sand based cement or concrete. I have even pointed a wall built with natural limestone in a mortar that complemented the stone used.
I have attended a Lime Pointing workshop run by Leicester City Council to ensure heritage contractors have a good understanding on the use of lime in old historic buildings, within natural stone work or heritage walls.
Lime, be that non-hydraulic and natural hydrated, brings properties not seen in cement e.g. it it permeable so lets out water and does not drive it into the surrounding stone(which would cause it to spawl), it’s flexible allowing for movement without cracking and it should be weaker than the stone its protecting, so the “expensive” stone lasts longer than the lime mortar which would a much cheaper repair/re-point.
Do you only work alone?
I recently did a job for the National Trust which involved heavy lintels bridging tree roots where I brought in some additional labour.
What tools do you use?
For walls with concrete or mortar topped walls which I need to dismantle safely and concisely or in certain other circumstances, I may use abrasive wheel devices e.g. an angle grinder or a powerful petrol powered cut off saw.
i am trained in the operational use of Stihl cut off saws by Stihl themselves, in accordance with the guidance from CITB and HSE, I also have certification in the use of Abrasive Wheels (including knowing the possible hazards, safe wheel speeds, label markings, safety checks, storage processes and testing protocols). I am also familiar with all the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) guidance on safe working practices e.g. HSG17, COSHH & PUWER ‘98, etc.
Can you take stone or rubble away for me?
If the stone is able to be reused I have somewhere I can store it until that time but I cannot dispose of commercial waste such as hardcore rubble as this requires a specialist license.
On occasions I find local businesses or farmers are on the lookout for certain kinds of hardcore for creating field entries, etc and if your requirement for disposal coincides with such times I can dispose this way, albeit depending upon the effort involved, I may charge a small, reasonable fee.
Are you verified by any construction organisations?
These schemes are used by the construction industry of the United Kingdom and are often the minimum standard required for procuring work within government and other large organisations such as the National Trust.
Why do we have Dry Stone Walls ?
What’s Happening to our Walls ?
Lack of funding and falling farming incomes have led to a decline in the condition of dry stone walls throughout the UK, affecting both their practical and aesthetic value.
Why is it important to preserve Dry Stone Walls?
Dry Stone Walls & Wildlife ?
Britains’ flora and fauna owe much to the traditional dry stone walls that provide varied and valuable habitats for a whole range of wild plants and wild creatures. Understanding this makes a real difference in the way I approach repairing or building a wall. The technical side always comes first, but I am very keen on making room for nature and think its important to understanding geology in a dry stone wall.
If this is your intention I am willing to introduce a partner to discuss what you have in mind for planting to ensure that the wall will maintain its structural integrity but also provides the floral display that you desire. This is one of the ways that I am unique within the Dry Stone Walling professional community at present.
Benefits of using dry stone walls?
The craft of dry stone walling and the preservation of our heritage?
In a 2-sided wall such as a Cotswold dry stone wall the centre, which consists of smaller stones, tightly packed together, form the strength of that structure, holding both sides together. This is called the “heart” of the wall and is the basis for my company name
While also providing a canvass for more controlled planting , as practised at design events including the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in recent years, they also provide a valuable natural habitat for plants, animals and insects in exposed areas of the British landscape.