19 May 2008


This morning I walked in my secret valley - by Blackamoor on the southern outskirts of Sheffield. It was deliberately for exercise - to get the heart racing and to break sweat - but it was also a lovely walk. So many bluebells and delicate wood anenomes in the dappled light of the beech grove and by the dancing brook aimed distantly for the sea. Heather, sweet gorse and may blossom and, along the way - so many gorgeous stone walls.

Perhaps when I was younger, I would never have taken much notice of old stone walls but now I look at them as if appreciating an art form. Many are very old - going back perhaps five hundred years - and some are very roughly assembled, while others are intricately arranged in layers, the joints so narrow you'd find it difficult to slide a coin in them. Around Sheffield there is so much lovely stone - various shades of limestone and hard sandstone, often in rough hewn chunks but sometimes expertly shaped and the natural colours vary subtly. Added to this there are the plants and mosses that bond with the stones - finding their ecological niches.

Dry-stone walls - a little appreciated art form.

I often think of the men who made these walls and the times they lived in when life was slower and survival was harder. I picture them labouring away, arranging the stones gradually like geological jigsaw puzzles in "The Krypton Factor", breaking sweat and stopping to rest, swigging bottles of pure stream water, devouring rough hewn hunks of bread. Their hands gnarled and calloused from years of patient wall-building. Undoubtedly they had no sense of themselves as artists but they have left behind a beautiful legacy the like of which no wire or wooden fence could hope to emulate in a million years.


  1. Lovely post YP - yes and yes! Quintessential England to me - I love 'em!

  2. Yes, they are definitely works of art.

  3. Yes, I love 'em too!

  4. Two words.... one of them is Andy and the other is Goldsworthy!!

    We have some ace dry strone walls round here too, and indeed I was also out walking in woodland today!!



  5. I agree and, coincidentally, I was on the beach at Fairbourne yesterday thinking very similar thoughts about the texture, colours, shades, patterns etc of the pebbles and rocks on the beach.

  6. Anonymous6:22 pm

    What do we take notice of when we are younger? Certainly not the stuff that catches our eye or holds our attention now that we are mortgage holding, elderly parent/child supporting grown ups, unless we make the time to look properly just as you did....being young is a foreign land and sometimes it would be so good to visit again for a while....


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