Saturday, 26 January 2013

Dry stone walling at Four Winds

This latest blog entry was written by a member of Lyme Park's prestigious walling team. The team is made up of skilled volunteers who have carried out miles upon miles of walling over the years, along with other conservation tasks. I'll leave it to "one of the gang" to tell you the rest...

Building with dry-stone has been going on for thousands of years and is one of the earliest skills developed by man. Structures such as shelters, tombs and enclosures were built using the same techniques that are essentially still used today at Lyme Park.

While there is not much call at Lyme Park for dry-stone shelters or tombs, there are some 18 miles (29 km) of enclosure walls that must be maintained. A number of these enclosure walls date back to the 1690s and are therefore over 300 years old. Some are used to mark the boundary of the park and to prevent the deer from escaping into the outside environment, and others to divide the inside area of the park into specific enclosures.
Most of the walls are comprised of local gritstone which, over the years, can be affected by the weather and can deteriorate. When this happens, the wall can be weakened and can partially collapse leading generally to a 'V' shaped notch or 'nip' in the wall. In more severe cases it can lead to a collapse of a section of wall.

At Lyme Park there are a number of dedicated volunteers who help to repair and maintain the dry-stone walls. At any point in time there may be up to twenty dry-stone wall projects pending, some of which will be more urgent than others. The following images show the repair of a section of boundary wall adjacent to Four Winds Road. This is what is termed "a fall back project" and as such is only worked on when no other walling work is required or practical. This project was undertaken by a team of volunteers who generally meet on Wednesdays to work on this and other conservation projects. Hopefully, the images provide some insight into the rebuilding of a very, very small part of the boundary wall at Lyme Park.
26th September 2012

The area of wall to be repaired has been stripped out, with the old stone placed on the ground on each side of the wall, leaving around one metre workspace next to the wall. This stone will be re-used wherever possible. The wooden 'A' frames are put in place in order to ensure that the wall has the correct profile or 'batter' while it is being constructed. The top of the wall will be half the width of the base. In this shot, the old foundations have been removed and the ground levelled, new foundation stones have been laid and the base of the wall has been brought up to the surrounding ground level.
3rd October 2012
Individual stones are carefully placed horizontally in the wall by teams of volunteers working on both sides simultaneously. It is important that both sides of the wall are constructed at the same rate. Remember that this is a 'dry-stone' walling technique, so no cement or mortar is used in the construction. The strength of the wall arises from its design, and the selection and careful placement of each individual stone in relation to those it touches, in order to obtain a good and stable 'fit'. The gaps in the centre are filled with smaller stones or 'hearting', to help 'lock' everything in position.
21st November 2012
The wall continues to rise as more and more stones are added. Guide strings are attached to the 'A' frames and are levelled with the aid of a spirit level. This helps to ensure that the individual stones in the wall are laid horizontally, and are thus better able to bear the weight of the wall above. The eventual wall will be approximately two metres high and is one of the boundary walls of the park. A one metre length of this wall will weigh approximately 2.2 tonnes.
The working conditions get muddier and the temperature colder as the weather moves towards the winter.
28th November 2012

The wall has now reached the correct height before the addition of the top two distinct layers. At this stage it is important that the wall is of uniform height along its length. The width of the wall at the top is half the width at the base. The 'A' frames are now removed.
 5th December 2012  
The next layer consists of a series of stones that cover the whole top of the wall. These are known as the 'coverband' or 'weatherband' and are laid flat across the top, covering both sides of the wall and protruding slightly from the surface of the wall.
The final layer consists of the 'coping stones' which sit on top of the 'weatherband'. These stones are laid almost vertically across the wall so that they lean on each other and give the wall a traditional finish. They are selected and placed such that their topmost points form a consistent level when viewed.
The completed dry-stone wall contains no steel, sand, cement or concrete. It is composed of 100% naturally occurring material. Its strength arises from its design, method of construction and the skill of the 'wallers'. It is highly resistant to wind and weather, and will require virtually no maintenance for many, many years. It will withstand the occasional cow or deer scratching itself against the wall, and it fulfils its function to retain the red deer in the park. It is also pleasing to the eye and forms a harmonious and characteristic part of the Lyme landscape.
With any luck, it will still be standing in 300 years or so.

Many thanks to all of the volunteer 'Wednesday Wallers'. You all know who you are!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Walking to Health

“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”

Admittedly, the above quote by Charles Dickens might be a touch drastic, but he’s not alone in praising the merits of walking. In today’s health conscious age, the positive effects of walking are widely acknowledged. From reducing stress levels and losing weight to reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of illness, the benefits of walking are there for all to see.

Lyme Park's Walk to Health group look out towards the Pennines
Although Mr Dickens might prefer to walk “far and fast”, Lyme Park’s “Walking to Health” programme has been developed with the intention of encouraging people of all ages to take gentle exercise to keep active and improve their health.
A small group of Lyme Park volunteers have been trained by Age Concern to lead the guided walks.

Rainy but good views of the deer

On the day
All walks commence at 10.30am and start and end in the main car park. They are led by a trained walk leader who is assisted by at least one back up.

Pre-walk briefing
Throughout the walk there will be plenty of rest stops, during which Lyme Park volunteers take the opportunity to inform and explain Lyme’s landmarks and aspects of the history of the park. The lengths of the walks vary between 1.5 and 3.8 miles and are set at a pace which keeps the group together.
A red deer stag looks after his harem
What to bring
The walks are held in all weathers and walkers are advised to wear suitable footwear and outdoor clothing. 

A review of previous walks by Ken Jones
The October walks are always well attended since it is an opportunity to view the Red deer rut up close and personal. The walk also includes a visit to the Kennels where the famous Lyme Mastiffs were once housed.
Post walk refreshments in the Timber Yard Cafe
The walkers in December were able to enter the Cage on a guided tour before returning to the Timber Yard Café via the main car park for mince pies and mulled wine. A great finish to the end of 2012!

So if you fancy stretching your legs, exploring Lyme park, and meeting like-minded people, see if you can make it to any of the walks in the 2013 programme:

Tues 15th JAN

Paddock Cottage - Shorter walk through Knightslow Wood up to Paddock Cottage, passing Darcy’s Pond (1.6 miles)
Thurs 21st FEB

Historic Drive - Longer walk, over varied terrain, including original drive to House, through Knightslow Wood, via Paddock Cottage (3.8 miles)
Tues 19th MAR

Reservoir Walk - Walking up to Bollinghurst Reservoir, past Red Deer reserve, returning via Hawthorn drive (3.6 miles)
Thurs 18th APRIL

Home Farm Walk – Walking to Platt Wood, via North Park & Elmerhurst Wood (2.8 miles)
Tues 21st MAY

Elmerhurst Wood - Gentle walk past the Cage into the wood to hear Spring Birdsong ( 2.4 miles)
Thurs 20th JUNE

Drinkwater Meadow Gentle walk via The Knott and Darcy’s Pond (1.6 miles) miles
Tues 16th JULY

Cage, Lantern & Garden walk - Good views down to the House, via Fallow Deer Sanctuary, ending with a visit to garden (3 miles)


Tues 17th SEPT

Fallow Deer Walk - A short Autumn walk taking in the Fallow Deer Sanctuary (1.5 miles)
Thurs 15th OCT

Red Deer Rut walk (1) - Walk includes a visit to the Old Kennels, moving on to the Red Deer Reserve (2.5 miles)

Thurs 17th OCT
Red Deer Rut walk (2) - Walk includes a visit to the Old Kennels, moving on to the Red Deer Reserve (2.5 miles)

Tues 19th NOV

Canal & Woodland walk - Walk moves out of Lyme Park to Macclesfield Canal, then back again via Pursefield Wood (3 miles)
Thurs 19th DEC

The Cage - This gentle Xmas walk includes entry into the Cage, originally an Elizabethan hunting lodge. Finishing with Mulled wine and mince pies in the Timber yard (2 miles)

 A printed copy of the programme of walks can be obtained from the Information Office in the main car park.

A big thanks to Ken for supplying the information for this blog article, and to all of Lyme’s volunteers involved with the fantastic Walk to Health programme.