Perhaps April isn’t so cruel after all

When T. S. Eliot declared that April was the cruellest month, he probably wasn’t thinking about early spring in the Brecon Beacons. However he might have been……. Attendees at previous Libanus based DSWA Wales branch training sessions during April had received the full Welsh-weather experience. Rain, snow, hail, and glorious sunshine; often on the same day. Thankfully for the 7 beginners who attended the first training weekend during the 2 and 3rd of April 2022 the weather was not a concern. Frosty starts on both days soon gave way to the warmth of the sun on everyone’s backs. Saturday began with the usual tea and chocolate biscuits, followed by the health and safety briefing and then a quick overview of what was to come. Soon the trainees were stripping out a 5-metre stretch of wall and grading their stone for the rebuild. After an hour they were down to the footings, or more accurately where the footings should have been. The prime suspect for the partial collapse of the wall was revealed, commonly poor foundations and over tracing. Pins for the batter and strings for the line were set up, and after a quick forage some new foundations were moved into position. More tea and a 5-minute demonstration on the basic principles of walling the beginners were running stone through their hands and on to the wall: length in, crossing the joints, building to the strings, coursing, pinning and hearting, and thinking ahead to the next course. By the end of the Saturday, the wall was to just below throughstone-height, the trainees were tired but happy and all the chocolate biscuits were gone.

Sunday began with everyone in a fine mood, which was improved when we realised someone had brought cake. One beginner had been lost but another gained so there was no loss of numbers. Within the hour the first lift had been completed and the through stones were on, well-packed beneath and bridging the two faces of the wall. The last of the big stones were laid and the thinner, finer stone added toward the top of the second lift. The beginners grasped their time-to-shine with the final few courses and by mid-afternoon they were up to coping height. After a brief discussion on the purpose of copes and different coping styles, the wall was topped and the copes secured. A quick tidy up, some photos, and a final tool-gathering and the 5 metres of rebuilt wall was complete. It only remained to finish the cake, pack away the trailer, and congratulate the new wallers on their accomplishment. With at least one new branch member we hope to warmly welcome some of them again in the future. But they must bring decent biscuits.