“Winter’s not over ’till the snow’s gone from the dykes”

Ancient words of wisdom from the north country, for sure, but just for now, we’ve not really started winter, let alone looking to the end.

So it’s still a good time to be building those stone walls, and today neighbour Nigel Carr is hard at work again, on the road out of Allendale towards Allenheads.

Nigel is available for dry stone walling work, and he can be contacted through this blog — that is to say, as a neighbour, I’ll be happy to get any enquiries on to him, since I only have to walk across the fields to have a chat.

It’s remarkable how decrepit old walls contribute to an overall sense of decay, whereas newly re-constructed walls have that connotation of being cared for and enhancing the entire property. In the image above, Nigel has propped up a through-stone ready for placing in position to anchor both sides of the wall, and to carry the weight of the top stones together.

I’m reminded of a song written especially for me to sing at our local folk club, some twenty-five years ago, by dear friend Helen Lawrenson. The tune is well-known, but I can’t remember its name, though I can hum it for you if you like.

The famous stone wall at Elpha Green, with its four layers of through-stones or thrusts, stands taller than most people.


  1. Let’s hope that the snow never settles in the dykes this winter, then spring will be upon us before we know it! Next door’s peacock is showing his tail feathers already, perhaps he knows something about the weather that we don’t?

  2. And let’s all do our best to protect those wild swooping hawks and falcons, so our skies don’t remain devoid of their cries and soaring flight.
    I do not refer to the ones bred in big factories . . . I want to see Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Hobbies, Merlins, Red Kites, Sparrow Hawks, Kestrels, Buzzards – why are they missing? ……

  3. Incidentally, twitchers visit annually to within meters of the new stone wall work to view nesting buzzards, and I see many sparrow hawks perched and hovering on my regular drives between Allendale and Hexham. And of course the valley’s population of lapwings, curlews, and black grouse are strong and thriving. But on the other hand, foxes are never seen in the upper fellsides below the grouse moors. Grouse hunting makes a significant contribution to the local economy (both in terms of gameskeepers, of young beaters, and of local hostelries — the Beast from the East put paid to most of the hunting season this past autumn, as all the farmed grouse died), but it would take a solomonic presentation by the likes of the BBC’s CountryFile to present all sides of the story.

  4. Thanks for the attribution, Larry! The tune is “Ho-ro, my nut-brown maiden”! You still have the best walls around.

  5. Loving the drawing of my brother hard at work. It’s also true sketch to the art of dry stone walling.
    I have been lucky enough to have been educated in this skill by our dad, however, no longer have the strength needed to construct them. I did one once, many years ago, about 5m of repair with help from a male friend who could lift the larger heavier stones that I cannot. I’m glad Nigel keeps repairing the walls, they look much nicer in good repair than not and provide homes for insects, mice, stoats and other small animals, not to mention the nesting pockets for many small birds. Beautiful drawing, thank you

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