Frank’s little adventure…

In the past we have cut our lawn and given the cuttings to our Dexter cattle. We also make sure that the pigs get some too and particularly at the moment since I’m trying to get Sissy into tip-top show condition for the Northumberland County Show at the end of the month.

This tactic has worked very well for us in the past but the cattle now recognise the sound of the lawn mower and start mooing loudly in anticipation of their feast.

Unfortunately I tried using our lawn mower on a high setting for keeping a test patch of rushes in our hay meadow under control. However the cows noticed the mower was close by and got themselves all worked up. Luckily I was only mowing a small patch as a trial so I soon stopped and I thought things would return to normal.

By the time I got back to the house to put the equipment away I suddenly spotted an unexpected figure ambling leisurely towards me – it was Frank and he must have been practicing his high jumping skills.

Frank taking his afternoon stroll

It’s at times like these that I’m grateful our Dexters have become so much more amenable and are happy to follow me if I have a bucket. Once I loaded the bucket with Supabeet – like sweets for a child – I was able to lead Frank back to the others all by myself.

While they all tucked in to their unplanned treat I was able to assess the dry stone wall. Luckily it was just cosmetic damage and mostly affected the top stones so he must have got plenty of height on his jump

Definitely not a clear round at showjumping

In no time the wall had been reinstated (in my strictly amateur fashion) but it still looks to be as solid as ever. These walls could have been here for around 200 years perhaps so it will take more than one cheeky Dexter steer to trash them.

I’m now just a little nervous though and I’m keeping an eye on Frank every so often to make sure he doesn’t make a habit of this

All sorted, until the next time?

Wall repaired and good as new

As luck would have it, a few days after discovering the collapsed dry stone wall in the woods we arranged with someone from the village to deal with the repairs. Barely a couple of days later they arrived and got all the repair work completed in around half a day!

Given more time I’m sure I could have done the work myself (eventually) but it would have taken me days or even weeks because there are always many other jobs on my To-Do list. I’d been meaning to move the pigs to an electric fenced pen close to this area and that meant I couldn’t really afford to wait too long to get the wall fixed.

I’m really pleased with the results and I’ll happily admit that it looks better than anything I could have done. Our neighbour is probably also happy because his sheep can go back in the adjoining field.

Wall repairs all done
Wall repairs all done

Sometimes it’s best to call in a professional

While on the hunt for the missing chicken eggs that aren’t getting laid in the nest box, I came across a major problem with our dry stone wall boundary in the woods.

As far as I can tell this must have happened in the last day or two but I can’t be certain as the ground dips down suddenly here. As a result, it’s possible to go into the woods on the way to feed the pigs without even noticing that anything is wrong down the bottom of the hill.

Inside looking out
Inside looking out

Luckily we don’t have any livestock in this part of the woods although I was considering extending the pig electric fencing to here in the next week or two. Perhaps more importantly though, it’s fortunate that our neighbour has already moved his sheep out of the field on the other side!

I’m perfectly happy to take on any minor walling repairs and I would even consider tackling a small rebuild but this is a bit more than that. After pacing out a quick measurement it seems that the main damage covers around 4-5 metres but any repairs would need to include some rebuilding on each side too.

Outside looking in
Outside looking in

Luckily it’s clear from these pictures that all the existing stones from the section that collapsed should be reusable. We also have a small supply of extras stashed away for just such an occurrence which helps to keep the repair costs down.

It’s definitely time to get in touch with the Dry Stone Walling Association to find a professional though – not least because they’ll be so much quicker than me and besides I don’t think I can spare the time anyway!

Not too shabby for an amateur

After the storm damage a few months ago with fallen trees taking out some dry stone walls, I have finally got around to completing some repairs. Luckily no one was around when they came down but the dent on the old gate is a good reminder of the event.

Before the clean up
Before the clean up

The eagle-eyed reader will perhaps also spot in the second picture below the remains of the offending tree which had rested on the broken wall and the gate.

 Unfortunately I didn’t allow for the weight of the root-ball and once I’d cut off most of the top, the effect of gravity swung the remaining part of the trunk back vertical again using the wall as a pivot point.

Obviously I should have paid more attention in my physics lessons at school but to my untrained eye at least the wall repairs look fairly good!

Finished wall repairs
Finished wall repairs

A grand day out!

A couple of weeks ago I spotted on the North Pennines AONB Twitter account (@NorthPennAONB ) that there was a Walling Taster Day on Sat 13 April. It seemed like a good idea for a day out and an interesting change from the usual routine so I booked up a couple of places.

Life is a journey

The journey over was fascinating as (I think) we crossed from Tynedale to Weardale then to Teesdale which was the final destination. I’m not completely sure though as we did end up on a slightly unplanned route.

Going over the tops between each valley quite clearly illustrated the differences between the higher ground which still had some relatively large snow banks left by the ploughs and the greener, almost spring-like valleys.


Walling for dummies

The whole event was very well organised and was run by Peter, a reassuringly competent and knowledgable instructor who really knew his stuff. The fact that there was a small group of only 6 people meant that everyone was able to get some one to one guidance from time to time.

It was quite daunting at the start when we took down the section of wall we would be working on but once that part was done it was much easier to understand the principles behind the construction of these walls.

I won’t go into all the details about wall constructions and the terminology for each part, if you’re interested they are running more walling taster days. I would definitely recommend them to anyone with a slight interest in them and certainly if, as we will shortly, you own some walls that may need repairs from time to time.

We feel confident enough after that one day to think about mending a few small broken sections of our own, at least if that falls down we can just have another go!

By lunchtime the first half of the wall was in place and looking good to out untrained eyes at least. This picture doesn’t really do it justice though due to the angle when taking the photo. It looks quite a short section of wall here but when measured the section we actually worked on was around 4 metres long!


I wasn’t sure that we would finish by the stated time of 4pm, especially when a small extra section fell down of its own accord not long after we had started. Luckily no more collapsed and we were able to safely build up the wall to fit in very nicely with each side of the gap we made.


I’m sure that a skilled Waller would probably have had a fit when they saw our results but to me at least it looked convincing enough. It was clear of the trampled ground which section we had worked on but when I looked up and down the rest of the wall it seemed to fit in beautifully, in fact some sections were much worse than our amateurish attempt.


Knowledge is good

A most enjoyable day out and although I wouldn’t want to try to build whole wall from nothing, I definitely I came away with more knowledge than when I started. I’m looking forward to my next attempt at some walling

For anyone who may be interested, here is a link to the next Walling Taster Day being run by the North Pennines AONB