London’s first ever dry stone walling school to open in Holloway

It’s an age-old art that for many evokes the rural splendour of the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales.

But now dry stone walling is coming to Holloway – with the capital’s first ever training school dedicated to the rural skill.

It is the brainchild of qualified dry stone waller John Holt, whose skills stem from his teenage years on the family farm in Lancashire.

He said: “The school is set up to provide training and education and to develop the interest and knowledge of the technique. I’m bringing it into London because it’s not here at the moment.”

Mr Holt, 60, has launched The London School of Dry Stone Walling at the Hilldrop Community Centre in Community Lane, Holloway, and will host his first training days in September.

The practice is highly skilled, as the walls are constructed with no mortar to hold them together.

“You just use the natural material as it comes from the quarry,” he said. “It looks easy, but it isn’t.

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“You need an eye to be able to choose the stone and the patience to do it. Maths is involved in working out the measurements as well.”

Dry stone walls were used to mark boundaries in the countryside for centuries, but Mr Holt says they can be more of a feature.

He has worked with youngsters at Hilldrop to build a London 2012-inspired structure, which is shaped into four Olympic rings, with a diamond in the middle to represent the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

“I was amazed,” he said. “It rained all day but they stuck at it and did really well. The wall has caused quite a bit of interest.

“Dry stone walling is part of the heritage of the country. When people who live in the city go out into the countryside I want them to be a bit more informed so they don’t knock the walls over.”

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