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On Monday we returned to Mazonwath  next to Little Asby Common for our monthly dry stone walling session. It was great to be joined by two new volunteers keen and willing to learn the art of dry stone walling.

Pictured: Mind the backs!

It is feast or famine up there walling at the moment – either huge stones that we can hardly get on the wall, or what our experienced volunteer Jean calls ‘cornflakes’ – stones so small they are hardly worth bothering with. We seem to have nothing in between right now so that adds to the challenge of the wall rebuild.

Pictured: Footings jigsaw

As we were up there and the new volunteers started to get the hang not only of how to build a wall, but also get a feel of their surroundings.

Pictured: It's a wheelbarrows view

We marvelled over the large open landscapes with big skies and big views, the range of brilliant walks possible from the common, the marl tarn of Sunbiggin nestling in the dip below, and the feel of the sun and wind lifting the spirits as we sat and enjoyed our coffee and cake break. That led us onto discussing the ground breaking work we are doing together with Prof Lois Mansfield for Natural England, on trying to get people to tell us what they value about the common and even harder to then try and put a monetary value on those things.

Pictured: Walling frame with a view

Just talking as a group, it was obvious that we share some of the same values, but also that each of us has their own take on what they value. That is what makes us all different and also what makes the task of trying to value things so intangible and so personal so hard. We are however going into a world where carbon storage and habitat banking are being traded on a monetary basis and our new research task is to say what about all the other things that a landscape provides which are also important? 

We pondered what value people will put on both the dry stone wall we are rebuilding, but also on our skills as wallers…. Hopefully within the next few months we may find the answer. Whatever the answer to that question and how valuable our volunteers are, the payment rate will remain the same : free cake 😊

Pictured: Break time!

The research will be much better and stronger with more surveys completed. You do not have to have visited the Common to be able to value it. So please, if you could spare ten minutes to help us with the work by filling in the survey, that would be really appreciated.