I am a stonewalling contractor with absolutely no paper qualifications to carry out my work. I do, however, have over 39 years experience of building stone walls. I built my first drystone walls as a British Rail trackman in 1979 as part of my job. British Rail were responsible for the upkeep of all walls and fences alongside the rail track.
In my section between Shipley and Skipton in Yorkshire, these walls totalled approximately 9k so there were often gaps in the walls that needed repair. I had no training.
Whenever I built a wall in those days, I did not build them correctly, always having heaps of stone left. I correctly surmised that when these walls were originally built, they used enough stone and not too much. I took down a good piece of wall to figure out what I was doing wrong. I learnt. Over the next six years, I became a reasonably decent waller. I attended a dry stone walling training course run by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) in 1984 to brush up my skills. I built my first walls for money working for farmers on Ilkley Moor in 1985. My walling projects then expanded, and I built walls in mainly Cumbria and Scotland, with smaller amounts in Lancashire and Yorkshire and three days work in Flinders National Park, South Australia.
I have also built many feet of miniature drystone walls using pebbles on beaches all over the world whenever I have got bored after five minutes of sunbathing on said beaches.
I have built an estimated total of 14600 metres of walling, both dry and mortared, over the past 39 years. I know this as I have made diary notes on all the walls I have built. Allowing for most walls weighing roughly 1 tonne per metre this means I have probably shifted something in the region of 42,000 tonnes of stone by hand.
06 May 2015
I have built many different walls with many different types of stone. Here in the Lake District, where I live, I have often said you can take me blindfolded and show me any dry stone wall in the Lakes and I will tell you where we are.
There are not many rules to my art of dry stone walling.
You should only use the stone you have got, unless more is available very close to the wall.
You should lay all your stone lengthwise into the wall, unless you can't.
Always cross joints unless you can't. One stone upon 2, or 2 stones on one, unless the stone you are putting on is wider than the 2 below, or the stones you are putting onto the one are a lot smaller in which case use as many as you need.
Build the wall in horizontal courses if the stone allows, and random if it doesn't.
When wedging up the stones in the face of the wall only wedge from inside the wall, and always only use a minimum of wedges, the bigger the better. Use filling stones in the centre of the wall to hold in the wedges and always use the biggest stone filling as the wall will allow. Never ever use gravel to fill any wall anywhere, even if that is the only type of filling you have.
Place throughs as and where they will go, and be of the most use.
Always place cams (topstones,copes) on top of the wall, and never use in the wall until you know you have enough for the wall.
How-ever a wall is built, how it is built depends on the type/size//shape/geological properties of stone being used and where and why it is being built.