That’s the way to do it!

It is an ancient craft that dates back to the Iron Age, and characterises across vast swathes of rural Britain from the Cornish countryside to the Scottish Highlands.

Now dry stone walls will be built by ex-prisoners as part of a £10 million drive to stop traditional skills dying out.

Teach the recidivists the skills of tomorrow!

29 comments on “That’s the way to do it!

  1. So no one will do it so we need to force inmates to do it?

    How about we try a less Stalinist approach and, you know, pay them some more? Then young people might want to do it.

  2. You’d be surprised how much you can make, dry-stone walling. Reason I learned to do it. Didn’t fancy having to pay a dry-stone waller.
    That was in France but I got released early for bad behaviour.

  3. Thomas de Quincy (Memoirs of an Opium Eater) refers to dry stone walling as a new-fangled technique that spoils the look of the Lake District. He was writing in the Iron Age, of course.

  4. @bloke in france
    Quite right. If someone came along today and proposed clearing the trees (from the lower levels) and putting all these grey lines everywhere, there’s be an outcry – and the planners* and tufty club would be all out against it.
    * LDSPB – a bunch of people with special extra powers to prevent progress in the Lake District.
    ** A (derogatory) term a mate coined for the National Trust !
    @ bloke in spain
    That was the first thing I thought. It’s a worthwhile trade to teach people – as long as you don’t teach too many. It’s not a cheap trade to hire in – especially if you want someone who can do it properly rather than just pile a few rocks up that’ll maybe stay put a few months.

  5. There’s a surprising amount of discipline in drystane dyking (as they call it where I learned how). For some little toerag ruined by the wunnerful education system in this country, it would teach planning – how to do the job to minimise the amount of lifting and carrying – a bit of engineering to understand the importance of the “batter” in stopping the wall toppling, and the determination to keep going when it’s pissing down with rain and a metre of wall just fell over because you didn’t do it right. And the satisfaction of admiring what you just accomplished and knowing that it’ll still be there in 200 years.

    For some people the experience might be the first time they’ve been able to feel they accomplished anything. Probably a lot more useful than much of what the prison service doles out as rehabilitation.

    As BiS says, there’s good money (by ex-con standards) to be made as a skilled dyker. And the trust and affection of a rural community, if that’s important.

  6. Incidentally.
    “Teach the recidivists the skills of tomorrow!”
    Somebody’s tomorrow.
    There’s a couple of skills I picked up in London. One’s tuck pointing. That’s the black pointing with the white stripe through it you see on some Viccy & Edwardian red-brick high-end houses. Old boy in his 70s taught me that, 30 years ago. The other’s lincrusta. It’s a heavily embossed wallpaper, basically putty with a paper backing, you’ll have seen on pub ceilings of the period. Houses also sometimes had it below the chair rail, in halls & on stairs. Couldn’t find anyone who knew that so I worked it out from basics.
    Learning either of those is like a licence to print money. You can charge whatever you feel like. The punter wants it to complete the renovation of his £2m+ Hampstead terraced, there’s no-one else he can go to.

  7. A good job for an ex-con little chance of stealing anything while on the job. I doubt many people would want them to become plumbers

  8. Dry stone walling in north-west Europe dates back to the neolithic rather than the iron age. In the Lakes, the earliest dry stone walls were ring garths erected in lower areas from the 10thc to prevent farm animals eating crops. Being a smack-head, de Quincey is perhaps not a reliable source, though certainly interesting.

    More generally, as automation increases, possibly such skills as drystone walling and thatching (and others BiS mentions) will indeed be some of the skills of the future…

    Otherwise, what JuliaM said.

  9. Theophrastus – “More generally, as automation increases, possibly such skills as drystone walling and thatching (and others BiS mentions) will indeed be some of the skills of the future…”

    More generally, as the White population declines, neolithic skills like drystone walling or thatching would be a best case scenario. Without White (and these days East Asian) people, how much technology would Africa retain on its own?

    Robots aren’t Britain’s future. Subsistence agriculture is.

  10. “So Much For Subtlety
    March 13, 2017 at 7:53 am

    So no one will do it so we need to force inmates to do it?

    How about we try a less Stalinist approach and, you know, pay them some more? Then young people might want to do it.”

    I would imagine that anyone who is hired to do one will get paid a pretty decent amount of money.

    But I would imagine that the need, in Britain – where people have been stonewalling their property lines for a thousand years – is pretty small nowadays.

    At least for those who are willing to pay for the work *voluntarily*. That’s where the state steps in to coerce people to do marginal improvements to other people’s property on the taxpayer’s dime.

    The next scandal will be the epidemic of young stonewallers attacking each other to protect their territories.

  11. There’s a steady market for a limited number of skilled makers of dry-stone walls – for example, the Badminton estate over the last few years seems to have employed a couple of blokes full time to renew the wall around the entire estate. At 10-20 feet a day it’s kept them gainfully employed for literally years.

    I’m also aware of a bloke with a JCB who makes a living tearing down DSWs for farmer who want bigger fields – he gets paid to rip them out (usually without the necessary permissions but no-one really cares) and then gets paid again to sell the scrap stone to garden centres and garden wall companies

  12. SMFS

    “Robots aren’t Britain’s future. Subsistence agriculture is.”

    No, Britain’s future on current trends is robots + marketplace beheadings. The question is, will robots or recidivists provide the beheading services?

  13. “That’s where the state steps in to coerce people to do marginal improvements to other people’s property on the taxpayer’s dime.”

    Which – if it works (!) – is arguably better than said people taking other people’s property illegally and making the criminal justice system more costly for the taxpayer.

  14. “A new pot of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund will be used to support training up a new generation of workers in traditional crafts, such as rigging, repairing traditional wooden sailing ships, and working on heritage railway attractions.”

    What’s the error here? Are there too many “heritage” attractions, or has someone misjudged the number of people required?

    “The money is aimed at addressing critical shortages in the sector, and will be used to train a new and more diverse group of heritage workers, including ethnic minorities, women, young people as well as ex-servicemen and ex-offenders.”

    Ah, so actually, the money is going to go on a group of Guardian-reading diversity officers with sociology degrees to produce the ad campaigns, recruit people, do monitoring visits, then write the PR reports into how well it’s all going.

    “The £10.1 million funding, which is being shared between 18 projects across the UK, is the latest investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) – which has already put £47 million into the Skills for the Future programme since it launched in 2009.

    While it is not a job creation scheme, the Skills for the Future programme has seen 75 per cent of trainees securing a job in heritage following their training, HLF said.”

    I’d love to know the numbers on that. £47m? Blimey.

  15. Agammamon – “The next scandal will be the epidemic of young stonewallers attacking each other to protect their territories.”

    The countryside won’t be the same once the dry stone walls are covered in graffiti and tagged as belonging to the East Wensleydale Wide Boys Posse

  16. No doubt there were neolithic era stone walls. Boundary markers and a bit of protection for growing trees. Once the plough came along there’d be demand for getting rid of the rocks in the field to protect the plough. But nothing like those pretty Lakes walls, more the sort of thing you see on Dartmoor.

    The amount of British landscape that was moved before mechanisation was quite astonishing. Today, no one would bother to dig a moat round woodland even with a JCB. But they did back in the day.

  17. When It’s A Knockout started, probably getting on for 50 years ago, it tended to be about country pursuits and be between country towns. One of the marathon events, and they tended to last all day, was dry stone walling.

    Just showing my age 🙁

  18. “Teach the recidivists the skills of tomorrow!”

    No-one knows what “the skills of tomorrow” might be. We can make educated guesses about the next (say) five years; but then, beyond that, unpredictable technological developments and market preferences make forecasting extremely unreliable.

  19. It is an ancient craft that dates back to the Iron Age, and characterises across vast swathes of rural Britain from the Cornish countryside to the Scottish Highlands.

    More accurately: “…rural British Isles from the South Western tip of Ireland’s countryside to the Scottish Highlands & Islands”

  20. Pcar do you have a basis for asserting that dry stonewalling does not exist in England and Wales? Your description suggests that it only exists in Ireland, the Hebrides , and the Highlands of Scotland, which is surprising

  21. If ex cons can actually be taught anything and they willingly learn –
    why not do away with schools and hand over education to the prison system.
    But why build walls when you can steal and other manly and exciting activities.
    Alas.

  22. john malpas – “why not do away with schools and hand over education to the prison system.”

    The British Army is 1. the largest adult education organisation in Europe and 2. roughly 100% successful at teaching boys to read.

    Everyone knows this. But for some reason no one is able to connect the dots and find out what the Army does that the Department of Education cannot.

  23. Well, there’s the whole ‘self-selected’ part.

    And the part where they pay you and threaten to stop paying you if you don’t get with the program.

    I don’t think many people are going to get on the ‘let the kids decide if they want to go to school or not and pay them for grade’ bandwagon.

  24. @Diogenes, March 13, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Pcar do you have a basis for asserting that dry stonewalling does not exist in England and Wales? Your description suggests that it only exists in Ireland, the Hebrides , and the Highlands of Scotland, which is surprising

    I mistakenly assumed all here would understand it referred to the entire British Isles. South West to North East – and all between.

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