Over the past few weeks the Boscastle to Morwenstow team have been getting cold feet. No, we’re not getting married, but have instead been wading through the Valency in the middle of Boscastle! Although the weather is still a bit cold to go paddling, we’ve been working hard to fix a section of wall that had been damaged during the storms earlier this year. The wet winter caused a section of the original dry stone wall to collapse, leaving a hole that was both unsightly (particularly to those in the café opposite!) and dangerous (to anyone who may be walking above it).
The first day saw the team clearing away the rubble and assessing the damage, before walking up and down the river repeatedly in our quest to attempt to recover stone and slate that was originally from the hole, along with others which would hopefully prove useful when it came to start building up again.
In the original section of wall, the method of construction was dry stone walling, which uses no mortar to bind the stones together. In the interest of structure and rigidity, the team used dry jointing, which uses mortar or cement to bind the rear of the stones together, along with a backfilling of aggregate, while leaving the faces exposed. This has the effect of maintaining the aesthetics of wall in keeping without the surroundings, while ensuring that our hard work isn’t in vain and that the wall doesn’t collapse again.
Following installing a strong foundation upon which to build, work went quickly, with stones slotting in left, right, and center. However, things are never straightforward and, before we knew it, disaster struck!
After a few days of work we returned to find the section of earth that had remained above the hole had collapsed. It was our original intention to try and build up to that section and strengthen it from below and, while fortunate that none of us were working on the wall at the time of the collapse, it illustrates the importance of repairing the wall before any further collapses were to happen.
After clearing the new rubble, we got back in to the task of repairing the damaged pieces that we had put in before starting to build up again. Each new day saw rapid jumps in the height of our new wall and, before long, our makeshift platform of earth and stone proved too small to allow us to easily get both stone and mortar in position. As such, a platform was brought down in to the river to allow us to more easily reach the last few feet. The end was in sight!
In starting to finish the wall, the trickiest task was finding stones that fit into the gaps left by others, but weren’t that tall that they’d start poking through the turf once it was placed on top. Nothing worse than going along with a lawnmower and hitting a chunk of stone! In the end, despite being a jigsaw puzzle without an image on a box to work towards, the final stone was placed. All that was left was to backfill the remaining gaps with aggregate and place the turf on top like the icing on a cake.
And with that the wall was done. The hard work which started with the first stone laid on the 18th of February had come to fruition. A new wall had replaced the old, and will hopefully be enjoyed and appreciated in years to come by those who take a stroll down through Boscastle. And, on a more personal note, this was a satisfying conclusion to the first big project this Full Time Volunteer has been involved in since starting at the beginning of February this year.
On behalf of the Boscastle to Morwenstow Ranger team.