How to build a dry stone wall
Dry stone walls provide valuable habitat for wildlife, says Alison Shaw of the Dry Stone Walling Association. Here are her tips for making a successful wall
Dry stone walling is a sustainable practice that uses locally sourced materials, very few mechanical tools and requires limited maintenance. Built correctly, walls should stand for many years; outlasting a fence several times over.
They are built without mortar or cement, which allows the structure to settle naturally and resist frost damage. Walls provide valuable wildlife habitat for plants, animals and insects and act as wildlife corridors for species to move about safely and undisturbed. Lichens and mosses also find a home on a dry stone wall and livestock appreciate the shelter it can offer during unsettled weather.
The profile of a dry stone wall should look like a capital letter ‘A’, tapering evenly towards the top. The largest stones are used for the foundation and should be placed at the bottom of the wall along the line of the proposed boundary in a row two deep.
Large, flattish stones should then be used for subsequent rows, diminishing in size as the wall rises. Each stone should touch the one beside it as much as possible, covering the joints below, so it’s one stone on two, followed by two stones on one.
A stone should be placed with its length reaching into the wall and small stones, or hearting, should be placed in the middle as you build to fill up the gap between the sides.
Part way up, large stones should be placed across the width of the wall, helping to spread the weight, (think the cross-bar in the letter A). Cope stones complete the wall and are placed across the top and wedged as tightly as possible to protect it. www.dswa.org.uk