Dry stone walls are likely one of the oldest forms of durable boundary that man created. In the British Isles, Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands is the best known example of ancient stonework. Dating from over 5000 years ago, it is an amazing example of using skill to mould one’s surroundings into a habitable space, using the only suitable, available element – stone. Having been there myself, I can attest to the ingenuity of this long-lost community. The are several dwellings which contain beds, shelving, hearths, and latrines (emptying into natural waterways taking effluent away from the camp). There are even fish tanks within the rooms that were supposedly used to keep live bait for fishing, or even keep the catch alive longer. All this created from stone.

View over Malham
View from Malham with Ingleborough visible on horizon

Fast forward a thousand years or so and as hunter-gatherers began to settle down and farm the land, they used dry stone walls to create enclosures for sheep and cattle. From this, over time, came dwellings and fortified structures such as the mysterious Scottish Brochs; cylindrical, impenetrable towers.

Today, especially in Lancashire and the Forest of Bowland, dry stone walls cover our landscape. Many of them serve as still-functioning farm walls, even if landowners sometimes add wire net fencing to make them fully stock-proof. These walls are what’s remaining of our cultural heritage and ought to be maintained for this, if nothing else.

Dry stone walls also serve as habitat for a plethora of animals, insects, and flora such as toads, snails, bugs, lichen, and mosses. The mortaring between all the cracks prevents the use of the cavities inside as a home for many would-be hosts.

picture of a frog next to a dry stone wall in whalley
A frog next to a dry stone wall in Whalley. Dry stone walls provide a habitat for all kinds of creatures in a way that standard walls don’t.

Walls are a low carbon boundary solution, particularly if you are repairing an existing stone wall with surrounding stone. If you erect a fence the steel or timber used to build it probably originated in another country and therefore required transportation – at environmental cost. Another consideration is that a properly built dry stone wall will outlast any fence by many decades.

Bowland Dry Stone Walling
Dry stone wall built by Edd in Mellor, Ribble Valley

Dry stone walls are aesthetically pleasing and harmonious with the landscape. From the buff-coloured Cotswold stone to the white limestones of the Dales and the multi-coloured granites of West Wales, dry stone walls provide a canvas of different hues and textures that are pleasing to the eye. A wall can make a lovely decorative feature in a garden, as well as an attractive boundary.

So if you need a dry stone wall built or repaired in Bowland, the Ribble Valley, Lancashire and even the South West Dales area (Malham to Settle), give me a call or an email. I am located within 30-45 minutes’ drive of Preston, Lancaster, Blackburn, Burnley, and Settle and will quote on small gaps of two days or less in the Ribble Valley, Hodder Valley and Wyresdale Valley.

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