Area of Outstanding Natural Dry Stone Walling – Gower Peninsula

A series of taster days were held on the 9-10th & 23rd – 24thAugust 2017 on the Gower peninsula, South Wales. Working in conjunction with the Gower Landscape Partnership the DSWA Welsh branch arranged instruction from Master Craftsman Alan Jones and past chairman Martyn Jones (no relation).

First course

The site chosen was the Mewslade valley. This represented a logistical challenge for the training officer Brian Lock in that it required providing a field shelter, portable toilet (as the location was remote) and the necessity of getting the branch-trailer to the build. Uzuzu Rodeo rode (read:drove) into the equation and with the help of its best friend 4×4 Nissan XTrail the trailer was hauled to the required field. A total of 12 people attended the first course and the enthusiasm emanated from National Trust volunteers and branch members. Working with Carboniferous Limestone requires a completely different approach to walling as opposed to the generally ‘coursed’ sandstones (Old Red, Pennant) of the Brecon Beacons.

The wall chosen for instruction was an old Limestone field wall. Local professional waller Andy Roberts believes that these walls are in excess of 100 years old, intelligence gathered from all the passers by! The weather was kind and over the two days the participants built the mid section of the wall to a height of 2.2m by approximately 9m across. Feedback forms completed the course left the field with the instructors to return two weeks later for the second course.

Second course

A slightly different group met the instructors at the 8:15 in Rhossili car park on the morning of the 23rd. Your author was intrigued by an attempt of a clawdd/bench in the car park (see gallery), no doubt this 9 month old structure will be rebuilt sooner rather than later. After a quick cup of tea and with the field shelter erected the course were getting hands onto the remainder of the field wall. Instructors Alan and Martyn laid out the batter lines and provided advice on suitable footers from the gnarly stone. Members Keith, Ian, Richard and Jamie spread out along the two sides of the wall and interspersed with volunteers from the National Trust the build proceeded well. It was particularly pleasing to see the course attended by two young people from the YMCA Swansea. Both had a go at walling, placing hearting and using the batter lines. At the end of the first day a significant lift had been achieved.

The second day brought more fine weather and several visits from wildlife such as toads, butterflies (Large White, Common Blue, Painted Lady, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood), Green Woodpecker to name a few. The build again went very well and with visits from Swansea Council officers, National Trust, Pont Cymru the site was brimming with activity. The course even managed to provide assistance to professional waller Andy Roberts who has been working on an impressive section of wall marking the boundary between the National Trust and farmers land. At some point in the day the two walls would require connecting and the volunteers assistance helped to meet this objective. At the end of the course a fine 20m section of wall was complete. The eighteen people that received qualified instruction provided positive feedback on the experience and it is anticipated that this field wall in Mewslade should last in excess of 100 years. The final image in the attributed gallery shows the end result and you would be hard pressed to know the DSWA Welsh branch were even there. The stock proof wall looks in keeping with the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, all without leaving a vehicle track in the grass!

Our thanks to the Gower Landscape Partnership, National Trust, Swansea Council and YMCA Swansea for their support in helping us to preserve this little but special piece of Gower and Wales.

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