Zen and the art of Dry Stone Walling

Clearly, dry stone walling was not a money making solution.  I took it up late in life after being made redundant and once I got started I never looked back. While there is plenty of work, it is not always of the quality and remuneration I would like and I have to drive a long way to do it. However, given a fine day in the Peak district there is nothing I would rather do. I no longer have to worry about running joints or spend seconds wondering about where to put the next stone or swapping stones to find one that fits. It sort of flows without my having to think about it. It also frees my mind from other concerns and this is what to me is zen and the art of dry stone walling. It is therapeutic and relaxing but it is also hard work.


  1. David Formby

    The picture above appears to be of a Buddhist contemplative garden, a far cry from the wind swept hills of the Peak District. I live in an area crisscrossed by what I (probably wrongly call) Yorkshire walls, up to a metre wide at the base tapering to a flattish top about a metre plus high with a vertical capstone. This system however has been transplanted to the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia, primarily as stock fences.
    I have built a number of walls and buildings using dry stone and even though I appreciate the “flow of the stone” there are times when it can drive you nuts which depends on a large degree to the shape of available stone. My major project was a winery wall which I did far too good a job on, got paid a miserable pittance for and destroyed my crooked spine. I have just finished two small walls (very carefully) and thought to write a dissertation entitled, you guessed it, Zen and the Art of Dry Stone Walling with apologies to Robert Pirsig for nicking the theme from. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Now I’ll have to add another apology. David Formby (originally of the Lancashire Formbys.

    1. Yes, the Buddhist garden does not really relate to the Derbyshire Peak district. However, thanks for bothering to communicate and v interested in what you had to say, particularly about those Yorkshire-type walls which have migrated to Australia. Although a frequent visitor to Australia, I have not had a chance yet to get out to where there are any dry stone walls. True also, that it can drive you nuts. I’m building a wall in Shropshire from rough unfaced quarry stone, the remains of an ancient wet stone wall and stone reclaimed from old buildings. There are moments in every day when I am talking to the stones and swearing under my breath just trying to get the stone to fit together. Then there are the zen moments as well.
      I like the sound of your winery wall and the all familiar tale that no-one really wants to pay what its worth in hard labour and skill for this type of work. I hope you write your dissertation, it was in the back of my mind to do the same but probably one of those projects I won’t get round to. And incidentally I also nicked the theme from Robert Pirsig so you will only need one apology. If you do write it I would be interested to get a copy. Thanks David. Happy Walling

      1. David Formby

        Thanks Michael, good to hear from a waller on the other side.
        No more walling for me, except for little projects.
        There is a book on South Australian rural DSWs by Dr Bruce Munday, I will dig out my copy and send you the details. I was going to take some fresh photos of my winery wall and would be delighted to email you some.
        Will keep in touch, cheers, David

        1. Hi David,
          Yes it would be great to get pics of your winery wall when you have them and also more details of the book on South Australian walls.
          I have not used this website a great deal so don’t have any up to date photos. My stepson in Melbourne set it up for me and suggested I put on some blogs when it was initiated but I don’t think the site was properly optimised. Anyway glad you found it and would be good to keep in touch. Will send my email address separately with title UK Walls.
          Don’t know how much longer I will be building. My current wall is very labour-intensive. Regards, Mike

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