Historical and condition survey of dry stone walls throughout the project area. Seek to understand the narrative of enclosure through the patterns of the field walls. Consolidation of priority lengths of wall.

Project lead: Westmorland Dales Landscape Partnership Delivery Team

Dry stone walls represent one of the key landscape characteristics of the Westmorland Dales. To the visitor they define a visually impressive patchwork of interconnected barriers and routes, to some within the project area they represent the interaction of family, history and ownership with the landscape. 

The long-term tradition of pastoral farming in the project area has meant that it is possible to identify the extents of former medieval arable farming through the surviving layout of field walls. Features such as droveways and outgangs provided routes linking villages to their areas of common land, and are clearly visible within the patterns of the dry stone walls. Alongside numerous other features, are shared or ’stinted’ pastures believed to have been built between the late medieval period and the 17th Century are also visible. Place name evidence and research from adjacent areas has raised the possibility of walls in the area following the paths of Norse ‘ring garths’ that separated fertile arable land from course grazing. 

The construction of dry stone walls can tell us something about the date and purpose and process that led to their creation. Walls contain a range of built features ‘furniture’, most of which are related to farming needs (sheep creeps, water smoots, wall heads etc), some furniture may, for example, demarcate maintenance responsibilities where the rights to a field were historically shared between farmers. 

Many historically significant walls have become damaged and create negative visual impacts in the landscape, particularly those which now serve no function for farmers and are ineligible for funding. They are in danger of being lost in the landscape, becoming piles of stones if they degrade further. Maintaining and rebuilding dry stone walls will help to retain a key aspect of the character of the Westmorland Dales landscape.

Purpose

  • To contribute to a greater understanding of the historic development of dry stone walls within the scheme area through archival research and typological survey of walls.
  • To preserve and conserve historically significant dry stone walls through a programme of wall repair.
  • To provide volunteer and Dry Stone Walling Association accredited training opportunities for local people.
  • To raise awareness and understanding amongst the general public about the historical significance of dry stone walls in the Westmorland Dales.