The South Wales section of the branch held its fourth training event of the year on 28-29th September at Hatterell Hill above Llanvihangel Crucorney. Eight beginners, one new member, and three instructors met outside the Skirrid Inn first thing and made their way to the site where they were greeted by our hosts with tea, coffee, and bacon sandwiches. There they also met the ninth beginner who had travelled from Pembrokeshire the previous day and stayed at the site overnight in a campervan. There was much gawping at the stunning views followed by a quick scope of the surrounding walls where a recent collapse of 6 or 7 meters would prove to be ideal for training purposes.
When breakfast was finished, new instructors David and Simon, under the keen eye of seasoned veteran John, gave a brief rundown of health and safety dos and don’ts, and what trainees could expect over the next two days. Then the trainees split into two groups and began stripping out the remaining wall, grading the stone, and preparing the ground for the footings. As they stripped out, it became apparent that some of the adjacent wall above the gap would also have to come down because it was riddled with vertical joints. Congratulations to new member Robert who took on the tricky job of making this section sound, tying the new wall into the existing stretch. A quick pit stop for more tea and coffee then the footings were maneuvered into place.
After some reminders of “1 on 2, 2 on 1”, “long is strong”, and “don’t forget to heart up” from David, Simon, and John, everyone quickly grasped the fundamentals and the first lift started to rise from the ground. Lunch was hearty soup, cake, and more lashings of tea, and a welcome respite to get out the rising wind. The decision was made to leave the branch gazebo up overnight, so it was firmly pegged and weighted down after lunch. Returning to the wall, the first lift was completed and the through stones positioned before calling it a day.
Day 2 began with all the trainees returning bar one and the group making their way again from the Skirrid Inn up to the site. Thankfully, the gazebo had survived the overnight winds, and after another breakfast of champions from our hosts, the trainees started on the second lift. The weather worsened somewhat during the morning and it became coats-on-coats-off for a few hours, although the sun did break through around lunchtime. Simon and David gave a reminder of the basic principles and everyone got to grips with using the smaller stone. With the occasional cry of “heart up” the second lift flew up. By lunchtime (baked potatoes, vegetable chili, and more cake) the wall was only a few inches below final height. During lunch, the gazebo was dismantled and put away, having admirably served its purpose yet again. With full bellies, the top of the wall was completed. After much searching cope stones were found that would span the width of the wall and the new stretch fully coped. There was just enough remaining stone to rubble cope part of rebuilt existing wall before the view was admired for one last time, the tools were gathered, and our kind hosts thanked for their hospitality.