Picture Post: The master craftsmen who shape our landscape

PIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson
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IT takes a certain amount of perseverance and skill to build dry stone walls.

It probably takes a certain type of person, too – someone blessed with good hand-eye co-ordination and no small amount of patience.

But the end results, as this glorious sweeping picture taken close to Malham Cove in North Yokshire goes to show, are well worth the wait.

Dry stone walling is a craft that has been used to create boundaries between parcels of land for centuries. But far from dying out, this ancient skill is thriving with a growing demand for people who can repair and preserve these features that have become an intrinsic part of our rural landscape.

The construction method hasn’t changed much over the years. It doesn’t use cement jointing and the finished result blends with the surroundings, provides shelter and habitat for a wide range of animals and insects and, if built properly, will last a lifetime.

The strength of these walls is a testament to the skills of the wallers who use the interlocking stones in such a way that they become self-supportive.

After hedgerows, stone walls are arguably our most notable traditional field boundary. They stitch fields together and are part of the ‘mosaic’ of the English countryside – one that we have all come to recognise.

If you were to take these walls away our rural landscape would look radically different, and be all the poorer for it.

Here in Yorkshire we’re fortunate to have a vast network of dry stone walls that weave across the countryside and have become part of the character of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

There is even the Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Guild – an organisation based in Thirsk 
and working predominantly in the North York Moors and Yorkshire Pennines – which exists to help safeguard the future of these much cherished landmarks.

The fact that there are people still earning their living building and repairing them shows that dry stone walls are anything but a thing of the past.

Technical details: Nikon D3s, 80-200mm lens, 60th @ f10, 200ISO.

PIC: Tony Johnson