Video: New wave of young professionals and families helping to keep Yorkshire’s wall building tradition alive

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THEIR INTRICATE patterns have been a feature for centuries across some of Yorkshire’s most famous countryside.

And while the craft of dry stone walling dates back thousands of years, it appears that the art is showing no signs of dying out.

Dry stone waller Thomas Page at work on Otley Chevin.  PIC: Simon Hulme

Dry stone waller Thomas Page at work on Otley Chevin. PIC: Simon Hulme

A growing number of young professionals and families are looking to find an escape from the frantic pace of modern life and have turned to dry stone walling as a welcome respite from the pressures of 21st century society.

The allure of the countryside and seeking out a pastime that harks back to a simpler way of life has seen a growing interest in the trade, with the largest branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association witnessing a rise in the number of volunteers and people signing up for training courses.

The association’s Otley and Yorkshire Dales branch now has 130 members, and has seen a steady stream of new recruits signing up to its two-day training courses. Brian Hartley, who is a training co-ordinator with the branch, told The Yorkshire Post that more than 100 people from across the North of England had signed up to the courses.

Mr Hartley said: “People go walking in the Dales and see these remarkable structures, and their interest in captured. People want to find out more about how the dry stone walls were actually made, and that is often why they sign up for one of the courses.

“We have seen a lot of young couples and young professionals take part, and while they obviously may not be looking for a change of career, it is an opportunity to get out in the countryside and take part in a craft that has been around for so long.”

The new recruits are a welcome addition to what Mr Hartley admitted is “an endless task” to repair the sprawling network of dry stone walls in the Dales.

Among those who have actually embarked on a career in dry stone walling is Tom Page.

The 36-year-old, from Pudsey, was a civil servant in Leeds before he opted for a career change nearly four years ago. He decided he wanted to get involved in the construction industry and began to learn the art of dry stone walling.

Mr Page said: “It is a privilege to be involved in continuing a craft that has been around for centuries.

“It is a challenge, and it is a great opportunity to get our in the countryside and help preserve our heritage. It can be tough work, but it is a real buzz to see what you have achieved.”

Members of the Otley and Yorkshire Dales branch of the national association are hoping to reach as diverse an audience as possible, and a team was at last summer’s Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate to showcase their skills.

Mr Hartley, a retired BT manager who lives in Arthington in Wharfedale with his wife, Wendy, who is a garden designer, said: “A lot of our members are what you would traditionally think of as dry stone wallers, and are looking to do something in their retirement.

“But it is great to see a new generation coming on board.”