Thursday, 2 February 2012

10 years in the Alport Valley

The remote Alport valley set within the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park is an exceptional scenic landscape which includes one of the biggest natural landslips in the country, Alport Castles. Around sixty species of birds can be found here including Skylark, Spotted Flycatcher and Reed Bunting. The valley is rich in invertebrate life and is internationally important for fungi growth; conifer plantations were introduced to the valley between 1930 and 1980.

An important partnership between the National Trust and the Forestry Commission commenced in 2002 with steerage from the Alport Advisory Group; consisting of other interested organisations and the local community with the aim to achieve favourable condition of habitats.
One of the commitments of the National Trust was the complete restoration of all the major dry stone walls within the valley. Dry stone walls are one of our main historic cultural heritages spreading across northern England for hundreds of miles. They are the backbone of the countryside and provide a mosaic patchwork quilt spreading across the varied landscapes.

Building of dry stone walls was believed to have started in the 16th Century; the National Trust has records which confirm some of the dry stone walls in the Alport date from the 1630’s. These are the earliest recorded dry stone walls on our land in the Peak District and are now an important archaeological feature of our past.

The National Trusts Estate Team consists of five estate workers, whose work tasks consist not just dry stone walling, but stock fencing, hedge laying, footpath construction, chainsaw work and a wide range of moorland conservation work. Starting in 2002 we have spent one to three months each year up to early 2012 rebuilding 16 dry stone walls which totalled 1,486 metres in length.

Each dry stone wall is built approximately 1.40 metres high. Each square metre of the wall consists of 1 tonne of stone. This means that the 1,486 metres of wall has required 2080 tonnes of stone to be taken down and rebuilt, which has taken around 300 days and approximately 9,000 man hours to complete the project.  The walling has been done in all conditions, including wonderful warm summer days, driving rain, and freezing cold days with snow on the ground, where each stone has had to be forced out of the solid earth with pick axes.

The walls are still very important for the modern farmer by providing strong boundaries that contain stock in fields. They provide valuable shelter from severe weather conditions and also allow ewes to give birth with protection from the elements vital in a lamb’s first few hours. It has been a memorable, enjoyable and immensely satisfying achievement to contribute to the restoration of these valuable historical features.


Steven Lindop 
Estate Team Supervisor

No comments:

Post a Comment