John Wilson & Louis Wake

Posted: 30/09/2010

Author: Andrew Crystal

Category: None Specified

Louis Wake, 19, took a year-long apprenticeship in the ancient art of dry stone walling under the expert guidance of craftsman John Wilson. He now works full-time for John in the majestic Cumbrian and Northumberland Hills.

Dry stone walling

Dry stone walling

“I had no idea I would ever become a dry stone waller and I really enjoy the job.”

An apprenticeship in dry stone walling

John Wilson gave up the rat race and a 10-year career as a policeman to become a full-time dry stone waller. Based in Cumbria and Northumberland, with more than 15 years’ experience, he’s a member of the Dry Stone Walling Association which lists 160 professionals working nationally.

He said: “Not only do dry stone walls look good, they are low impact and in keeping with their environment. The nooks and crevices within them provide refuge for small creatures, insects and plant life.

“There is tremendous skill in mastering the building of these walls which can withstand a battering from the elements for hundreds of years. A lot of the work we do is repairing or rebuilding farm walls which are around 200 years old.”

John works with the National Trust, English Heritage and Northumberland National Park and employs three people full-time and two part-time. He and his team work on all types of walls and dry stone features.

Louis completed NVQs Level 1 and 2 in Dry Stone Walling and Environmental Conservation after applying for an apprenticeship

He said: “I had no idea I would ever become a dry stone waller and I really enjoy the job.

“It’s tough work and the weather is difficult to contend with sometimes. One of the best things we have done is some conservation work on Hadrian’s Wall. It’s amazing to think we were working on something that’s thousands of years old.

“I suppose my ultimate aim is to run my own dry stone walling business like John, but at the moment I’m just glad to have been given the opportunity of learning a valued skill and get a career.”

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