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The Intangible Practice of Dry Stone Walling

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The Intangible Practice of Dry Stone Walling

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The practice of dry-stone construction is the building of structures using stone and no other materials. Dry stone structures are primarily spread across rural areas. Stability comes from careful selection and placement of stones. Dry-stone construction has shaped diverse landscapes. They represent practices used from prehistory in organizing sacred, 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.

A local dry stone structure at Sopwell is a structure known as a ha-ha, a sunk or blind ditch. 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.

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

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

“My approach to understanding and creating dry-stone structures is driven by a multidisciplinary background in archaeology, chemistry and anthropology. A passion for dry-stone construction developed while working in Irish Archaeology, excavating stone built sites and stone artefacts. As a founding member and Trustee of the Dry-Stone Wall Association of Ireland.  I believe future generations of wallers will benefit greatly from safeguarding the knowledge of the practice (through intergenerational sharing), governmental support for a growth in the profession, and recognition internationally of Ireland’s dry-stone credentials.”

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