Posts Tagged ‘dry stone wall’

A busy few weeks, by Sophie Nash, Project Officer

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

We have nearly completed the electric upgrade trenching work on site.

As well as eliminating the power shortages which we sometimes experience, this is an opportunity to move the power cables underground, contributing to the Westonbirt Project’s work in restoring the Grade I Registered Downs landscape.

The work has gone relatively smoothly and to time, helped by the freezing temperatures which make trenching far simpler than in the pouring rain.

If you are wondering why we haven’t yet removed the pylons and overhead cables, this has been delayed by the utility company due to poor quality poles from the power station across other landowners’ fields which haven’t been replaced since the 1950s!

Pylon at Westonbirt Arboretum

Next week the contractors will start creating a new stone track road from the gate near the A433 across the field used for overflow parking to the new ha-ha.

This will enable us to use the field more efficiently during large events but will also provide an alternative access road into the site which will enable us to minimise disruption when we construct the new Welcome Building.

Although this sounds like a very straightforward piece of work it has involved measuring the girth of some very old veteran Oak trees (one was a whopping 5.8 metres!) to ensure we stay well away from their roots.

We will also start repair work to the original ha-ha along Mitchell Drive next week, which involves repairing the dry stone wall. We have removed the iron railings from the ha-ha in preparation for the repair work which will continue into March.

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More about the Westonbirt Project

I’ll never look at a dry stone wall in the same way again, by Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

Friday, August 12th, 2011
Chipping away

Chipping away

Phew! I’ve just got back to my desk after a morning’s dry stone walling – or an attempt at it. Having grown up in the Cotswolds, these walls are a familiar feature in the landscape, so when staff were given the opportunity to take part in a half day workshop with skilled craftsperson Kath Wright at the helm, I jumped at the chance.

Kath works creating walls in the Cotswolds, but also teaches on a regular basis, amongst other things, preparing people for exams and taking her knowledge into prisons – where she says the skill really captures the imagination of the young people that she meets as they can see that there might be a job in it for them one day.

The wall is being built as part of a scheme to create a traditional ha-ha boundary on the Downs. This in turn will one day run into the welcome building that is planned as part of the Westonbirt Project. Although the foundations and structural part of the wall were built in conventional materials, Sophie Nash from the Project team is now in the process of organising weekend workshops and volunteer staff days to create a façade in Cotswold stone to match the other ha-has on the estate.

Cotswold stone

Cotswold stone

After donning our steel-toed Wellingtons and goggles, we set about getting to grips with the big heap of stone in front of us. You can see in the first photo that I am chipping away rather inexpertly, but I think to be honest this part of the day is to get you feeling comfortable with the stone. I had a bit of practice trying to get a ‘camber’ on the face of the stone, so that when it is placed on the wall it tilts at an angle and doesn’t collect water. I also had a go at knocking some corners off and trying to straighten up a few edges. Kath of course did some excellent demonstrations knocking things into shape with the deft touch of 25 years experience!

Next up was getting down next to the wall – a ha-ha has a ditch on one side, so it’s a case of clambering down with stones in tow (actually I think some of the larger ones had me in tow!) – and laying some stones. Once you lay a big stone, you need to wedge it into position with a small stone so that it doesn’t move about. You then find another stone that fits snugly alongside, and wedge that into place as well. Once you’ve done a whole row in this fashion (not so easy when you’ve got a load of first-time wallers working on small sections next to each other!) you need to fill in the area behind with even more small stones. If we were creating a normal wall rather than a ha-ha of course, we’d be building two skins and infilling the centre.

Luckily Kath was on hand throughout. Her skill for knowing what sort of stone should go where, when to put in a narrow stone to ‘tie’ the wall together, which side actually is the face and which stones will fit next to which was remarkable.

Section of dry stone wall

Section of dry stone wall

Needless to say we didn’t finish the ha-ha. We’ve had a good few workshops and a couple of staff days now and we’re getting there bit by bit. I was pleased with today – I wouldn’t say I learnt a new skill as obviously that takes years. But it was a pleasure to work with this material alongside someone with such knowledge and get an insight into their world of work. It is also great to think that a tiny bit of Westonbirt’s new ha-ha was created by me and some of my colleagues. And no, I’ll never look at those familiar old Cotswold stone walls in the same way again…