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The Intangible Practice of Dry Stone Walling




The Intangible Practice of Dry Stone Walling

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The practice of dry-stone walling is making constructions by stacking stones upon each other, using no other materials. Dry stone structures are primarily spread across rural areas. Stability is ensured through careful selection and placement of stones. Dry-stone structures have shaped diverse landscapes, containing dwellings and farming features. These structures represent practices used from prehistory in organizing living and working spaces. They optimize local natural and human resources, playing a vital role in preventing landslides, floods and in combating erosion and desertification, enhancing biodiversity and creating microclimatic conditions for agriculture. Practitioners include rural communities and professionals. Dry-stone structures are created in harmony with their environment. The practice is passed on through practical application.

 The mini dry-stone wall represents the inclusivity of dry-stone walling. Nell Curran, 13, has been building mini dry-stone walls for years. This transition of knowledge from father to daughter represents the key element of passing knowledge and skills through the generations.

The revetted ditch at Sopwell is a structure known as a ha-ha, a sunk or blind fence, ditch and fence, a deer wall or a stone revetted foss. This landscape feature creates a barrier while preserving views. The revetting technique involves building a wall embedded in a gently sloped or vertical ditch face.  

Ken Curran is a drystone waller based Tipperary, currently blending traditional and creative dry-stone work.

“My passion for dry-stone construction developed while working in Irish Archaeology and excavating this type of feature. My unique approach to understanding and creating dry-stone structures is driven by a multidisciplinary background in archaeology, chemistry and anthropology. As a founding member and Trustee of the Dry-Stone Wall Association of Ireland I believe future generations of wallers will benefit greatly from growth in the profession and recognition internationally of Ireland’s dry-stone credentials.


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