I kind of remember always wanting to learn how to build a dry-stone wall, but perhaps I made up that memory? It may have been a more recent urge, but nevertheless I found myself, last June, on the outskirts of Sheffield.
There were four of us and the farmer, truth be told we were four townies who looked horrified to find there was no toilet or café where we’d be working. But you know what? Once we were underway, digging the foundations for our wall, nothing else mattered. No wifi, no skinny lattes, just focused concentration, hard work and fun (sort of).
As with anything in life, the foundations are all important. You don’t lay the foundation stones until you’ve selected all of them. The wall is built at an angle, leaning in as it gets taller. It looked simple on paper.
There are six points of contact for each stone. Looking back at these I was struck by how these points can apply to us too. So here are the six points, with my own thoughts on translating stones to people.
1. Best face to the outside – give your best to the world, hide the not so good bits and rough edges
2. Length into the wall – depth gives strength
3. Level top or minimum camber – create solid support for others or for your own growth
4. Correct batter – what are you using to fill in the gaps? Is it strong? Appropriate?
5. Touching each stone either side of the joint (check for cantilevers) – how’s your peer group? Are they pulling you up or pulling you down?
6. Level with and parallel to the string line (stand over the line to check) – are you on track? Do you check back and remind yourself of your goal?
After 10 back breaking hours, often working in silence due to the level of concentration needed, we were done. Between the five of us we had built a whopping 1.5m of dry-stone wall. Turns out that a professional dry-stone waller earns about £19 per metre, and can lay 5m on a good day. (I think I’ll stick to people development)
I loved the day. It was so different to the ‘day job’, I had to switch off completely from everything else and focus on the job in hand. I had to take instructions (those who know me well will know that’s a challenge for me) and let others do things I couldn’t do (like lifting the heaviest stones and breaking them up with the hammer).
I’d done it because I wanted to. Reflecting back, I learned loads.
I wonder if coracle-building will have the same impact? Watch this space…