Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wall of Dreams

I got an email yesterday from some friends who had invited us to come and teach a group of enthusiastic people who wanted to know how to build a dry stone wall from local fieldstone on their country property. The students who came to the workshop built a lovely section of wall in their front yard, well back from the road, and well within the what was obviously the established property line.

The husband wrote to say.

Having an interesting discussion with the county roads dept about the new wall. It seems that the previous owners sold a strip of land to the county, so the old iron bar located in front of the wall is NOT actually the property line any longer. Instead the new line is behind where we have situated that wall. So it is partially on the county right of way. The local roads foreman thinks the wall is a hazard. The county engineer thinks it is attractive and well built, but too close to the road for his liking. They want it relocated back about 2 feet ! No kidding. I’m trying to see what recourse we may have, but may need to take it down, which would be very unfortunate.

Very unfortunate indeed.

Many trees, rocks and bushes in Ontario, not to mention countless fences and signs and telephone poles (and who knows what else) are all dotted much closer to the road and are much more of a hazard (just by their sheer number) than the rarer more beautiful 'obstacle' that one simple dry-stacked wall presents.

But basically it's the old 'sandcastle phenomena'.

I remember this from my early days, going on vacation to the lake or the ocean with my parents, and playing on the beach, building sandcastles all day with my friends. I realized pretty early on that there are those who build sandcastles, and then there are those who enjoy knocking them down.' It almost seemed like you could divide kids into two basic categories, the ones who liked to make things and the ones who liked to wreck things.

I still wonder if I was right and more specifically I wonder how this 'plays out' as people grow up. I know that a lot of the rebuilding of walls in Britain is associated with repairing the damage done by vehicles crashing into them. Are the walls always at fault, or are the drivers just big kids, finding new ways to wreck beautiful things?

Anyway, it amazes me how people in authority ( mostly those lacking any 'ability' for creating anything as beautiful as a stone wall) have nothing better to do, or maybe just enjoy nothing better, than demonstrating that they have the 'ability' to force those who make dry stone walls, to take them down.

Or to rephrase the famous line in the movie Field of Dreams....If you build it, they will come,
and tell you to remove it.


  1. The moral of the story is that whenever you build on or near your property line get an up to date survey line established. The few hundred dollars spent may end up being well worth it. This is a very sad story. If the photo above is of the wall it is certainly beautiful and well built. I hope an arrangement can be found. If this was the states it could also lead to a law suit if there was an accident because the wall is in the right of way. Hopefully this will alert people to avoid similar situations. Good luck.

  2. Thanks Ches for your suggestions.
    No that is not the workshop wall. That is a photo of me standing beside a wall in Cumbria last March. It is one of many thousands of beautiful walls that dot the British countryside along the roads. Most of these walls have not been 'taken down' yet, presumably because anyone with the authority to have them removed would have the sense not to insist on it, because they know there would still be way too many people complaining. But give it a few more years and the automobile will eventually win the battle over aesthetics there, too.