A group of volunteers came together in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales to learn new skills as they got to grips with the traditional craft of dry stone walling.


Disabled people and their family and friends worked together to rebuild a badly damaged section of dry stone wall near Selside, through a partnership initiative run by local charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and the not-for-profit community interest company Experience Community.


Under the guidance of experienced wallers from Natural England’s Ingleborough National Nature Reserve, the volunteers learnt how to select, shape and position stones to construct a straight and level dry stone wall, and to add ‘fill’ to the central cavity to provide strength and stability.


Rugged ‘Mountain Trikes’ – all terrain outdoor wheelchairs with lightweight aluminium frames, lever drive and chunky off-road tyres – enabled the whole group to access the damaged wall and get stuck in with the repair work.


Among the participants were Amanda and her family from Lincoln. Amanda said: “None of us have ever done anything like this before. It has been a lovely day, and so nice to get together with other people who share similar interests.”


Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers, and with regular ongoing maintenance, this dry stone wall could stand for another hundred years, playing a crucial role in managing livestock and offering shelter and habitat for a wide variety of animals, birds and plants.


Craig Grimes, Director of Experience Community, said: “This session was part of a three day activity programme designed to give disabled people a chance to access the countryside and experience something new with their friends and families. It has been partly funded by a grant of £5,000 from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund, which allowed me to purchase another Mountain Trike and will help to fund a series of 18 sessions.”


The session was facilitated by YDMT through the ‘People and the DALES’ project, which aims to provide opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged children and adults to experience the countryside through activities such as walks, farm visits, conservation work and crafts.


Gail Smith, Community Worker at YDMT, said: “This was a first for all involved, and really pushed the boundaries in terms of enabling disabled people to reach less accessible parts of the Yorkshire Dales countryside and take part in physically demanding conservation activities. I think it was a huge success, and it was made possible thanks to infectious enthusiasm and determination of Craig at Experience Community, the fantastic all-terrain wheelchairs, and support from our friends at Natural England.”