115. Georgina Bark: Exploring the craft of dry stone walling

In episode 115, host Sue Stockdale speaks with Georgina Bark, also known as Bo, a dry stone waller. Bo shares her journey of leaving an office job behind to pursue a career outdoors and why she enjoys her work.

Bo emphasises that problem-solving is a crucial aspect of her job, both in building walls and repairing them and offers advice to listeners, encouraging them to pursue their passions.

Georgina Bark is based in Gloucestershire and an Advanced Certificate holder and member of the Dry Stone Walling Association.  

Key Quotes

  • “You can use hammer on Cotswold stone and the sandstones and the limestones, but there’s no point trying to hammer a big granite boulder because you won’t win that battle.”
  • “If I come back and drive past in another 10-20 years it should be here unless I’ve done something catastrophically wrong”
  • “It’s really satisfying to see people learning, people taking something in. It’s nice learning a skill they’ve maybe never dreamed of doing even and seeing their pride in what they’ve done at the end of the weekend.”
  • “The grants for farmers to repair walls are so low that a lot of farm walls go into disrepair and it’s a lot cheaper to put a roll of stock netting round.”
  • “Sometimes you get in a bit of a rut with a few stones and that’s maybe the time to walk away, play with the dog, go and have a cup of tea.”
  • ‘I’m always learning, always something different, different sites, different scenery, getting to go all around the country, working with different people sometimes, different stones.”

Time Stamps

00:00:20 Traditional craft of dry stone walling.
00:05:08 Dry stone walling is a craft that requires hands-on experience and a keen eye for judging and using the available stone.
00:10:19 Building dry stone walls sustainably.
00:14:40 Opportunities for collaboration in walling.
00:23:11 Problem-solving is crucial in wall building.
00:24:29 Learning and adapting is key.
00:29:30 Follow your passion and do what makes you happy.

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Transcript: Georgina Bark (known as Bo)

Sue: Hi, I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to episode 115 of the Access to Inspiration podcast, the show where you can be inspired by people who may be unalike you. Well, I met my guest this week in a field, literally. Georgina Bark, or Bo as she likes to be called, is a dry stone waller, one of hundreds of wallers who build and maintain some of the 180,000 miles of dry stone walls that exist around the UK. There are at least 35 countries that have dry stone walls in the world, including France, Switzerland, Nepal, Australia, the USA and Canada, but the UK is the epicentre. And this skill of building walls from natural stone with no adhesive, so no mortar or cement, dates back many thousands of years. Just think the pyramids for example were built using a very precise form of dry stone walling. Well it was fascinating to speak to Bo and learn more about this traditional craft and why she was motivated to leave an office job and have a career outdoors. And as always you can follow along with the transcription on our website at accesstoinspiration.org  I am with Bo Bark and we’re out in the countryside today and as I’m speaking to her, we’re actually looking at some deer in the field across from us, which just gives me a real sense of nature today. So welcome to the podcast Bo.

Bo: Hi, thank you for having me.

Sue: Well, what is your job and why are we standing out in the middle of a field?

Bo: I am a dry stone waller.

Sue: And how did you get into that job?

Bo: I was lucky enough, I applied for a training bursary, having worked lots of office jobs and retail and things that wasn’t really fulfilling me. I applied for a training bursary with the Dry Stone Walling Association and was lucky enough to get a position on that.

Sue: And I’ll find out a little bit more about what that actually involved in a bit. When you were a youngster and you were thinking about life ahead and your career, at that stage what were your aspirations?

Bo: I have to admit it was paleontology and archaeology at that point. thanks to obviously Mr Tony Robinson and his Time Team and the Jurassic Park films.

Sue: Thank heavens for television and movies! And did you then start to pursue that and then change?

Bo: Yes, I’ve got a degree in archaeology and heritage from the University of Worcester a fair few years ago now. and mostly I would have liked to have done it but I saw people with a bit more passion for the archaeology side where I found it interesting they were definitely passionate so though I still read about it and keep up to date with some of the news I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete for the few jobs there actually are so I just went into the workplace and just started earning money really.

Sue: And then when you were doing a job that was just earning money as you describe it Did you still hanker after something more?

Bo: Yeah, I definitely wanted to be outside. I spent a lot of time mooning out of the office window, I suppose you’d say, rain or shine. I always wanted to take the dog to work. I’ve got my little dog who comes with me now and I love that and he’s got friends all over the country because of it. Yeah, I used to spend a lot of time looking out the window wishing I was even thumping fence posts in or something that was worth doing. I didn’t feel some of the time I was doing a job worth doing.

Sue: So then when you saw this opportunity or you had the chance to have the training bursary, how did you find out about that in the first place?

Bo: There is a very good website called the Countryside Job Service and I had their newsletter every day or every couple of days whenever they send it out. I’d applied for a fair few different jobs. I took myself off and did a chainsaw qualification, looking at estate rangers, that kind of thing, a bit of ecology, a bit of tree planting, anything like that that got me outside in the green stuff.

Sue: And then you saw the training bursary opportunity and went for that. So what did you learn when you were going through the training?

Bo: Well with that you’re actually just basically placed with a waller. We did a bit of a first aid ticket and a few bits of paperwork should we say. But then we were placed with a waller for a few months which then led to getting our first drystone walling qualification. And then a few more months where they encouraged you to move around the country and maybe do a month somewhere else with other wallers and other stone. and then after just under a year you get your what’s called your level two intermediate certificate which is about when they say you’re ready to go out and try and earn a crust at it you know you’ve got the skills you’ve had a bit of practice you’ve used different stone you’ve learned different techniques that’s when they say you’re good enough to go out and do it so I trained down Malmesbury and Tetbury way so proper Cotswolds stone that’s what I did most of my first year but I also worked in Wales with some different sort of sandstones

Sue: Yeah. And therefore because you’re talking about different types of stones and listener I’m standing here in front of a wall and I think it looks like Cotswold stone. Would that be right?

Bo: Yes it’s somewhat on the small side this one.

Sue: So what difference does the type of stone make to how you’re constructing the wall?

Bo: The construction is technically the same. It’s whether it’s worth trying to lay it level or whether you work it more randomly. Whether it’s worth using a hammer. You can use hammer on Cotswold stone and the sandstones and the limestones, but there’s no point trying to hammer a big granite boulder because you won’t win that battle. So the boulder ones are a bit more random and a bit more use what you got, I suppose.

Sue: So there you are on your training out with a dry stone waller and learning. Did that really require a lot of observational skills? So was it sit and watch somebody else do it? Or were you right in at the deep end and having to actually do it for yourself?

Bo: Pretty much in at the deep end. It’s the best way to learn something like this. You have to get hands on with the stone. You feel the shape as much as you see the shape, I’d say. Learning to use a line. A lot of trades use lines, builders, plumb, whatever. But learning to actually follow the line. You can put a line up for some people and they still won’t follow it. Yeah, no very much hands-on. It was just following him on all his different jobs, learning the problem-solving aspects of it, how to build over tree roots, where you can and can’t build. Yeah, just following him around day to day.

Sue: And so you’re starting to talk about some of the challenges of the job and I wonder what’s a challenge that comes to your mind that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Bo: Well, this wall we’re looking at is a kind of a challenge. It’s a lot smaller than you generally try and build a wall. But as we’ve got the stone we’ve got, it’s quite diddy little stones. So making a decision on how small I can make it and still make a strong wall that’s got a decent structure. If you’ve got to build up over crests of things where you put your top line of your wall, which is more of the artistic eye of what looks right, just because the bubble level says it’s level, it can still look wrong against the ground or the garden it’s in or anything like that. Working in confined spaces, so again here I’ve had to put all the stone one side, so you have to work what we call overhand. So you’re leaning over the wall to get the stone to build? Yeah, building both sides from one side. Yeah, lots of little things all the time, I suppose.

Sue: And as I’m standing here with Bo looking at the wall, there is just literally a pile of stones in a field and then there’s a wall that’s partially constructed. How do you know, Bo, that the pile of stones that’s in front of us here is going to be sufficient for the job that you’ve been asked to do? And what if there wasn’t enough stones? What would you do then?

Bo: Well, that’s partly why this wall is as small as it is. We like to say it’s a tonne a metre in the Cotswolds for a standard stockproof height, so a tonne a linear metre. I haven’t got that here, so I have whittled it down. It’s using your eye, it’s judging. I’m five years plus into doing walling now, so you get to judge what you have and haven’t got. when to make a wall, maybe one course shorter than it ought to be because that’s the stone you’ve got. Yeah, it’s all a lot by eye. It’s an art, not science, very much so. There are calculations for tops and they say metre edge and they work most of the time. But when you’re just given a pile of stone in a garden or a field, you have to guesstimate.

Sue: So I’m hearing, as you’re describing this, very much use of your senses. Yes. Is that what you expected the job to be?

Bo: It’s more than I ever expected it to be, I have to admit. It’s never a job that had occurred to me, but it felt like learning a craft would be something nice to do. And it is, I say it’s a craft, it’s an art. It’s physical and mental. We run dry stream walling beginners weekends. I’m a trained instructor as well now and quite often they say oh we’ll do nine till four and this that the other and I say no we’ll do nine until about half past two because you’re all going to be really quite tired. You’re trying to do quite a lot with each stone like you say using all your senses you’re out in the elements like we are now getting rained on the background noise the breeze can actually be really tiring but when you walk away at the end of the day you’ve built something and that’s going to be there for a long time and that’s again a visual sense of progress and yeah sort of satisfaction.

Sue: So did you ever imagine sitting in that office that this is this is the sort of thing that would give you satisfaction and a sense of purpose perhaps?

Bo: Not so much I was mostly I say looking at sort of estate work which is a lot of maintenance a lot of fence posts a lot of gateways a lot of driving tractors round which all needs doing to maintain the countryside we have but I didn’t think I’d ever quite find a craft like this no so it’s quite magical.

Sue: Just that sense of magic that you described there, I’m wondering when you sit at home at the end of the day and you’re reflecting on what you’ve done in a day, what does give you that sense of dissatisfaction?

Bo: Well, leaving something. When I was doing paperwork, I was doing accounts and you just feel like you just got on top of everything and then it was just time to do the next set of accounts. And then you do the next set of accounts and then so on and so forth. Whereas this, you know, this little job, I say I’ve done a little repair down the road this morning, I’ll carry on with this for the next couple of days. and when I walk away it’s nice to come back and do more walls for people but hopefully I don’t have to come back and redo it you know and if I come back drive past in another 10-20 years it should be here unless I’ve done something catastrophically wrong but yeah it’s that it’s leaving something in the countryside and it’s and it is quite sustainable that’s not why I do it but provides home for lots of rodents and amphibians and that kind of thing and it’s using the material to hand we are 200 yards from a quarry so you know and it’s not nasty chemicals that you get from cement and things like that so it’s all those aspects as well I suppose.

Sue: Yeah I can understand why it gives you that sense of greater satisfaction. Now a couple of things that strike me also about your job one is that I’m imagining it’s quite a solo activity would that be true to say?

Bo: 90% of the wallers around and about are solo we do quite a lot of solo work yeah this is this is my little job myself and a few others if we take on a bigger project we’ve had a big estate project up in Shropshire there’s five six of us and that’s not to say there’s ever six of us there but there’s always two or three of us there on and off but that’s just the scale of that project the lengths of all required but yeah it can be quite solo it can be get through quite a lot of podcasts on the old headphones sometimes music sometimes just listen to the wind and the traffic yeah you can be alone with your thoughts but when you get into it as well you just go into it. When you’re just doing a crossword you’re not worried about have you left the oven on or did you pay the bills, you’re just doing a crossword and it’s a bit like that.

Sue: So you mentioned hours of work in the training courses earlier that people will probably finish early because they’ll be tired. How do you manage your time in terms of making sure you’ve got enough energy to do the job?

Bo: You generally have had enough by home time, I guess that’s what it is. If you’re doing your couple of metres of wall a day, you’re moving at least two tonne of stone every day pretty much. Some days it can be more, again when we’re working together you could just be labouring on someone loading up a trestle, so you move more in a day. So yeah, come three, four o’clock you know you’ve done it. Unless you’re very close to finishing a piece where you might push on, we generally finish up say three, four o’clock-ish. We travel, I’m an hour from home now, sometimes an hour and a half further. so you add that into the day yeah not not overdoing it there’s no point breaking yourself on a Monday like you say you have to do Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday after that so sometimes Saturday Sunday so yeah just slow and steady I guess and don’t don’t be silly with big stones is the other thing

Sue: Yeah, that makes complete sense. And therefore even listening to your body. So if you know you’re tired, then maybe it’s time to call it quits for the day.

Bo: Yeah. Again, chap I trained with, Nigel Chivers, he always said he’s got like the three strikes rule as well. If you’re out on a day like today, it’s a bit mucky and horrible. You’ve tripped over your shoelace. You’ve knocked the frame over and you’ve knocked your cup of tea over. It’s probably time to go home. You can’t force it. It’s not, you know, it’s not worth it. If you’re having a day like that, you’re going to hurt yourself. So pack up, go home, come at it fresh.

Sue: And if you’re enjoying this episode about the outdoors, you might want to listen to episode 26, where I spoke to Jonathan Cook, a dairy farmer, about why he loves his job. You can find that and more than 100 other episodes on a wide range of topics at accesstoinspiration.org. Now back to speaking to Bo. The other thing also I’m curious to understand is how you get the work in the first place, because any sort of entrepreneur that’s running their own business, part of the challenge is finding clients. So is it that you’ve got an amazing amount of work and you can’t keep up with it, or how do people find you?

Bo: Well, because I trained with the DSWA, which is the Dry Stone Walling Association, and I pay my membership for that every year, I am listed on their website of contractors. So a lot of people will go there, certainly the bigger firms, the house builders, they’ll go on there and find local contractors that way. And then once you get a few jobs, there’s a lot of word of mouth. This was word of mouth from a farmer over at Bybury who came on one of my courses. He came on the course, he never finished the job. I finished his job for him and then he said we need somebody over at Burford if you could. So you get a lot of that really. And then because of the walling community and the Drystone Walling Association, you might get somebody who maybe thinks the job is a bit too big for them and they’ll call one of us and say could I have a hand or do you guys want to do this or there’s a lot of that where we’re quite fair with it it gets shared around or people just say yeah they are flat out And has anybody got a week’s spare here and there to go and push them along? Again, it’s quite an organic thing, almost. I haven’t had to ever advertise, other than being on the contractor’s register. This little job’s passed along.

Sue: And in a place like the Cotswolds, there’s a lot of walls.

Bo: There is a lot of walls. We work all over, say, our little gang. There was a big one down at Bristol, we did. Shropshire, we’ve been in for a little while. Wales, wherever, really. And yeah, Cotswolds is plenty of walls. Plenty of wallers, but plenty of walls.

Sue: And how long might you typically be on one job? Because I know there’s some walls I’ve driven past in this area where they go on for an extended amount of distance. So is it weeks, months or even years that you’re in one place?

Bo: It can be, yes. This is a little job. I haven’t been here much because of the weather, but this isn’t a full week’s work yet. So this is a week, 10 days for me. Little repairs like we did this morning across the road. Again, that’s a morning’s work, but that was two of us. But then we have had the large estate where we’ve been up there four years on and off. I say an amount of us, not any one of us. So yeah, the bigger landscaping projects and things can be months easily. Depending on the finish as well, there’s field walling and then there’s a bit more finish work where you’re using your hammer a lot more to make everything look perfect and level. So that’s your Chelsea Flower Show level. I haven’t been yet, but people I work with have. There’s that kind of finish to it.

Sue: What are your aspirations in terms of the future? You talked about being an instructor. Is it about training other people or is it about getting to those Chelsea Flower Show type places with your work?

Bo: For me, I do really enjoy the training. It’s really satisfying to see people learning, people taking something in. learn it nice learning a skill they’ve maybe never dreamed of doing even and seeing their pride in what they’ve done at the end of the weekend or the week that’s quite nice. Personally I’ve achieved my level three advanced walling certificate which is the highest you can go with a lantra but there is master craftsman under the DSWA scheme which may or may not happen in the future. Again they look for very high standards of work and different features, pillars and curves and things that are a bit more than a straight wall across a field so there’s a bit of that maybe in the future. If a flower show thing came up then probably yes but that’s probably not where I’m I just like leaving my mark around the countryside I think.

Sue: And it is a beautiful wall that we’re looking at, the work you’ve done already here. Now I’m imagining, correct me if I’m wrong here Paul, that there are not that many women as drystone wallers.

Bo: There’s not none. There’s a half a dozen, maybe a dozen working wallers that I know of, females, around the country. Again I only know the people I know. Not that many wallers actually. Are we talking hundreds, thousands? Hundreds I’d probably say in the country. I think there’s only a couple of hundred on the professional register. You don’t obviously have to be on that register to be a working waller but even if you doubled it you’re only up to four or five hundred.

Sue: And yet there are thousands and thousands of miles of dry stone walls across the UK, aren’t there?

Bo: There are, unfortunately. The grants and things for farmers to repair them are so low that a lot of farm walls go into disrepair and it’s a lot cheaper to put a roll of stock netting round. But I think there will always be work for us because there’s places that will always want a nice looking wall and there’s always going to be big piles of stone in people’s garden that they want something done with.

Sue: So as a female doing this job and one of few females in an industry, is it heavy, hard work?

Bo: It’s not too bad in the Cotswolds. It’s lots of little reps, if you think of it that way. You’re only lifting little stones a lot. If you work in maybe, say, the big granite Scottish, you know, that part of the world. There’s only so much you can do. We have done bigger stuff with the sandstone and I have pushed myself and I have hurt myself, but I think everybody goes through that phase of trying to show they can. Yeah, it’s tough. It is tough. It’s cold, wet, horrible, muddy and brilliant.

Sue: Do you ever drive past a wall that’s falling down and think, oh, there’s an opportunity for some business?

Bo: I do feel like I should post business cards into them, yeah. No, I always think it will get done and people do like to see them repaired where they can. And I say there’s always the landscape inside. People are quite keen to have them in the gardens as features and that sort of thing. How does a dry stone wall work? Well, the short answer is that they’re two faces. So you build two sides of a wall and make sure it’s packed amazingly well, pinned and packed. And then because there’s sort of a small A shape on it, this wall doesn’t show it so well. There’s a small A shape on the wall that it’s gravity and friction is what holds them together. You’re always trying to get length into the wall on the stones. because it’s tempting to lay them like bricks, like a long, but you’re not getting much strength if you do that, whereas if you laid them the other way in and then tying it all together, yeah, and packing it really, really well. So the packing in the middle is as important as the face stones, the pretty ones on the outside, really.

Sue: And the packing is with small stones in, rather like putting a jigsaw together?

Bo: Yeah. Well, you should use as big a packing as you can get in the gap and then fill in with smaller, smaller, smaller, basically. And it should all not move.

Sue: So you’ve got to look at these stones and use your problem-solving skills to work out what’s going to go where and how it’s going to be strong and stay firm for a long period of time.

Bo: Yeah, you’re trying to cross your drawings like your Lego bricks or your bricks, like you say, make it as strong as you can. If you have got smaller stones, mixing them in with the bigger stuff so it’s not always really tiny stuff sometimes isn’t the best. You can’t put it all in the middle but you can. Yeah I suppose it is like using that. It’s become somewhat second nature now I make little decisions and change things and move things without really consciously thinking I’m going to do this because it’s what I do all day every day. I get slightly stressed packing shopping bags and things because I want it to be perfectly right. I packed a move house last year and that was getting a bit like that and it’s like no it doesn’t have to be perfect it just has to move.

Sue: So the strength overplayed in other areas can become a bit of a hindrance. A bit of a spatial awareness, yeah. So as I’m looking at this wall, there’s about six metres of layers with maybe two or three layers of stone on it, so it’s very low, and you’ve got about a third of it built to what will be the final height for it all. Is that typically how you would build a wall, as in long and low, and then gradually build it up?

Bo: yes I’ve done two moves on this so far of the little frame so I didn’t do the whole foundation so yeah I’ve done this is that’s where I think I’m going to get to with the stone so I’ve done the foundation and then I’ll come up to that line and then I’ll lift the line up again and go again to the line on both sides You need to bring both sides up together, you can’t be building in fresh air, as people say. And the other thing is, this isn’t a massive wall, it should be about 12 metres total, but if you were to take down 100 metres of wall at once, or have 100 metres to do and you lay your string out 100 metres, you’re on your knees for a long time building foundations and then you’re at a rubbish height for a long time doing foundation and you can move your pile of stone along you know what wastage you’ve got as you move along your little sections whereas this gives you a break because you get to a nice height to work at for a couple of days and then you’re back on your knees doing something else

Sue: So there’s a logic to how you’re taking a section and going from bottom to top and then moving along?

Bo: Yeah, especially when you have limited stone. I didn’t know how far I’d be able to get. That was always been the deal with this particular client. We sort stone for the end when we know how far we’ve got. So that’s a guesstimate. And I didn’t want to pull out a much longer section and then have to reel it back in because I didn’t have the stone to do it.

Sue: Anything else that’s important, like what you learned in your training and how you apply it on a day-to-day basis in your work?

Bo: I’d say just lots of problem solving, how you build up against things, how you tie into old walls. again on a repair job where people are on a bit of a budget we all are but you don’t want to take down masses and masses and masses you just want to take down what you have to take down to repair it right yeah and it’s important on a repair as well to figure out maybe why it came down or why it’s bulging or why it needs repair so there’s a bit of analysis there or sort of forensic eye sometimes it’s quite obvious parts I’ve done there’s been a rabbit warren underneath and it’s all collapsed and a couple of dead rabbits and that’s that but that’s an obvious failure for a reason yeah if you get unknown failures you have to look at whether maybe the ground’s moving or something a bit deeper and a bit less obvious lots of little puzzles lots of problem solving here I’ve had to guesstimate the stone and guesstimate how much wall I can make with it working on roadside so again you have to build from one side working up against the building or something how are you going to set a frame out or how are you going to run lines for that how much you can do by eye before it all goes a bit wonky there is a lot by eye as well for all we try and use frames and lines you just have to go with the flow what stone fits where and if it’s a bit above or a bit below then that’s what it is

Sue: And I guess your confidence comes from the experience, the training and then applying it in the training and then learning as you go.

Bo: Definitely learning as you go. I’m still learning, still finding out different things and thinking about stones in different ways. It has been good for me to work with other people and watch. As well as I’m working, I’m watching and you see a few different tricks with the hammer or different way of looking at things, when to change it up. Sometimes you get in a bit of a rut with a few stones and that’s maybe the time to walk away, play with the dog, go and have a cup of tea. That kind of thing, recognising it in yourself when it’s not happening. Or just go and move your stone pile about, throw some stone forward and it will all look different and you can go again.

Sue: So when you get stuck, do you just find a way to mix it up a little bit?

Bo: Yeah, go and start at the other end of the wall, go and pinch some stones off another bit, go and put some tops on if you’ve got a wall ready for tops. Just, yeah, change your point of view for five minutes. We all need a break, we all need two minutes. And you get, not flustered, but you keep repeating the same things and you’re not making any progress and it’s that walking away.

Sue: knowing when to come back with a fresh eye. Now you talked about topping off a wall, Bo, and as I’m looking along this wall I can see there are some stones that are perpendicular on the top of the wall to the rest of the stone. Is that what topping off means?

Bo: Yeah, we call that cope stones or toppers. That’s kind of what we do in the Cotswolds, although a lot of walls, again for cost and availability of stone, they’re sometimes just haunched, which is just like a small domed cap of concrete.

Sue: How do you feel about that, putting concrete on a dry stone wall?

Bo: My friends say the other day, the customer is never wrong. If it’s the necessity, then yes, I have done walls where I’ve laid bigger stones flat on the top because it just ties the top two courses together and keeps a bit of the weather out, really. We will get tops for the rest of this. They’re coming, apparently. Yeah, people call it cock and hen. When we refer to cock and hen, we mean one tall one, one short one, one tall one, one short one. Otherwise, we just call it random. Or you can see the wall across the other side of the field there is really uniform, but they’ve all had to be manufactured. Each stone? Dressed up, yeah. Because you wouldn’t get that many the same. So again, on the Cotswold stone, it is worth using a hammer, but you’d be a long time making that many knight’s tops without a machine or something.

Sue: And do you have to source the stone or are you just building with what’s provided to you by your client?

Bo: It’s a little bit of everything. I say we’re not far away from a quarry here, so we give them a ring. We say how much for X amount of stone. Can it be tipped or does it come in bags? You have to look at where you’re having it delivered because you might have a power line across. Quite often there’s power lines across the top of people’s drives you forget about. So you book a tipper and then they can’t tip it where you want or that sort of thing. And access, because again, if it’s in somebody’s back garden and you’ve got a wheelbarrow through an alley or something, There’s lots to think about like that. There’s obviously loads of quarries around the Cotswolds, so finding it isn’t too bad. And I say it’s just getting the right amount without getting too much or too little is the dark art.

Sue: Yeah, so imagine you don’t want to leave a pile of stones in a field somewhere when you finish the job.

Bo: Some people don’t mind having a few left for a bit of a rockery or chuck them in the garden, but you don’t want them to be paying you or paying for two tonne of stone that they’re not going to use. So you want to be as close as you can.

Sue: What kind of stone do you like working with best?

Bo: Ooh, that’s a question. We’ve done the job at Bristol was the pennant sandstone and that the finish on that was brilliant but it does take a long time to get your head into because it is very level bedded so it comes out almost very square quite perpendicular very layered but it means if you start doing wavy lines they show up a lot worse than when you’re doing something a little bit more random like we’re looking at now But the finish on that, when you get it right, looks stunning.

Sue: Yeah. And what about those more bouldery type dry stone walls that we might see in other parts of the country if we weren’t in the Cotswolds?

Bo: I’m imagining… I admire that as a skill more. I’m now used to the Cotswolds and the sandstones that are quite level bedded, so you can aim for levels, you can aim for lines. I can build random, but it won’t look like some of the other guys who do it day in, day out. Dry stone walling is the same all over the world, whatever stone you’ve got, but whatever stone you’ve got definitely dictates whether it is a big bouldery wall or a nicely coursed one.

Sue: Brilliant. Well I think before we get completely drowned in this wet rain, we will stop our conversation. So if you were our listener, and I’m sitting in my office, a bit fed up with my career, just making money here, I want to do something different, what would your advice to them be?

Bo: Do it. Find something you want to do. It could be whatever it is, whether it’s gardening or walling or animals or whatever. My sister trained as a zookeeper and now she’s a massage therapist slash physio. So, you know, go and do what makes you happy, whatever that may be.

Sue: That sounds like very wise advice. And if our listener wants to find out more about the work that you do, how might they be able to do that?

Bo: We’ve got the Cotswolds DSWA website and the Dry Stonewall Association in Great Britain, their website. There’s stuff on there and there should be links to courses and things on there if people did want to come and play in the countryside for a weekend.

Sue: Well thank you so much for your time today Bo. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. It’s nice to be in the outdoors to see the actual fruits of your labours and to just hear the passion in your voice for the job that you have. You’ve created that career for yourself to do something you love.

Bo: Yeah, yeah. I say it wasn’t anything I ever foresaw. I wanted to be outside, definitely. This never crossed my mind, but now I’m into it. I do. I love it. And it’s a craft. And I say it’s always learning, always something different, different sites, different scenery, getting to go all around the country, working with different people sometimes, different stones. It doesn’t get old, I suppose. Brilliant. Thank you very much, Bo. Thank you.

Sue: Well, thanks to Bo for the conversation and I was definitely pleased to get out of the wind and rain that day. Let us know what you enjoyed about this episode by sending us a voice note or a message via our website contact page. And remember you can subscribe to this podcast on all the major podcasting platforms and then you’ll get easily notified about new episodes. I’ll be back next week with another inspiring guest and hope you can join us then.