Sunday, January 2, 2011

Before We Wave Goodbye.

Before we wave good-bye to 2010 in anticipation of another exciting stone-packed year, I thought it would be interesting to post this recent article about Roctoberfest which is our annual dry stone festival in Canada. Looking back on events like this one remind me that the walling scene in Canada is now well established and dry stone walls have become something that people are not just talking about and admiring, but enthusiastically acquiring hands-on skills in building repairing and designing. Master craftsman Norman Haddow who attended the event at Landon Bay near Gananoque along with nearly 500 people, taught one of the three dry stone workshops there last October, wrote this piece for the DSWA of UK . It appeared in their quarterly magazine The Waller and Dyker.


I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the recent dry stone Thanksgiving gathering in the small town or Rockport. Although looking back, the first event in Port Hope was a modest event it has grown steadily over the last 7 years, yet lost nothing of the warmth and kind hospitality which has marked it out since the start. Thanks once again to John Shaw-Rimmington, his wife Mary and a large band of dedicated helpers.

This year it was held close to Rockport in Landon Bay Public Park. The townsfolk had gone to a great deal of trouble to find accommodation for the participants and to provide a great selection of stone so essential for the success of this type of venture. I was amazed by the range of entertainment and also by the standard of walling on show. Only a few years ago there seemed to be little enthusiasm for dry stone walling over there. Now there is a growing band of excellent wallers many of whom have been masons who have come to realise the unique benefit of adding dry stone work to their c.v.

Much was happening over the four days. Most of the activities related to stone. However there was something for all. There was live music during the day and illustrated talks in the evenings.

The children took part in the creation of a wood spiral organised by DSWAC field Manager Eric Landman There were several stalls selling goods and services such as tools, cards, planters, warm food and included a table for the DSWA, UK. The 2011 calendar alone attracted considerable interest.

On days 2 and 3 there were three training courses taught by qualified instructors from the UK, USA and Ireland.People benefitted from these and produced fine work which enhanced the house in the park.

Meanwhile a fireplace was built be a group under the direction of John Scott who lectures in masonry at a Canadian heritage masonry college.

At the entrance to a woodland walk several of the young masons produced a remarkable arch (photo4). On the 4th day six people were tested on behalf of the DSWA .Two sat the initial and four sat the intermediate certificates

There is no doubt that the high-light of the festival was the bridge. It was built to replace Kay’s bridge which was in a poor state. Kay and her husband Charlie were some of the original owners of the area which they later donated to the town as a Public Park. Although sadly Kay had passed away quite recently, Charlie in his late 80s was there and was thrilled that the new bridge in stone would also be called after her.

The bridge project was overseen by John Shaw-Rimmington himself and was very happy to incorporate two new features. The first, a suggestion by Irish author and bridge builder Patrick McAfee, was an idea that the workers lay out the entire arch flat on the ground before it was placed on the wooden former. While this would involve double handling in fact it speeded up the process dramatically as far more people could dress the required vousoirs at the same time. The second idea came from Gavin Rose who works for the National Trust in the Lake District building Pathways in the hills. He suggested that the crossing over the bridge should be in the form of ‘pitching’ which turned out to be a very strong covering for traffic.

Overall I believe this was the best meeting of its kind which I have ever attended. I would encourage anyone interested in dry stone to go to Canada next year and experience for themselves the magic of this Canadian treat.

Links to the dry stone walling association of Canada

to more photos of the event

Norman Haddow

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