Snapshot Saturday: Keeping the sheep in order

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, Yorkshire

Near Appletreewick (pronounced ‘Aptrick’ locally)

Yorkshire has over 8000 km. of drystone walls.

Constructing these walls is an ancient art which seems in no danger of dying out: younger generations continue to learn the skills needed. Large stones are carefully jigsawed together into 5′ to 7′ high walls.  Here are some instructions:

‘Gather and sort the stone by size in a type that complements and harmonises with the landscape such as limestone, grit stone or sandstone. Make foundations level and about a yard wide. Large stones go at the bottom butting against each other. All other stones must make contact with others and have the weight back into the wall and the face facing.  With each layer of stone fill in void spaces with smaller stones to ‘bind’ the wall. The wall should taper like a flat topped ‘ A’,  this slope is called the batter. ‘Throughs’ are the large heavy stones laid across the wall at intervals for extra strength. Topping stones as the name suggests are the icing on the cake also called coping, cap or comb stonesCheeks or Heads are the end stones. A Cripple hole is a rectangular opening at the base of a wall built to permit the passage of sheep. Also known as a hogg hole, lonky or lunky hole, sheep run, sheep smoose, smout hole, thawl or thirl hole. Smoot hole is to allow Rabbits and Hare to move through or even small streams.’

(From Yorkshire: God’s Own County)


I love these ancient technical terms.  I love the order these walls impose upon the landscape, as they perform their traditional task of dividing fields, and keeping sheep in their place.

Drystone walls marching across the landscape near Grassington.

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is ‘Order’.

39 thoughts on “Snapshot Saturday: Keeping the sheep in order

  1. Margaret; this post is AWESOME!
    Giggling (indecently loud) reading all those names to Hero Husband over late espressos
    Sighing (deeply) over those magnificent walls
    Smiling (dopey smiles) over the brilliant sheep pics
    – the sheep – Oh how I miss them after 8.5yrs in South Devon!!! – We still have one sheep – not to be taken too literally! – swinging from the back-mirror in the car, bought in Lynmouth North Devon – along with honey & other stuff on a visit, now 18yrs ago!!!
    – the drystone walls – we had one around our Victorian house in Torquay and have one around our land here in France too, pretty hard leaning over steeply and in some danger to fall down on the road at some point (hopefully long after we’ll have left here…..). Am so glad to read that this art is being preserved and passed on.
    – those landscapes with rolling hills
    – those names!!!! THOSE NAMES!!! I start laughing out loud again – just went over them once more. And I remember fondly how we sometimes had no idea what villages our Devonian were talking about because the swallowed 9/10th of the names 🙂 But with times we caught up nicely and we don’t say Glochester any more but Glostə like the ‘vrai Gloucesterians’…. LOL, so many memories and so much nostalgia for our time – and even though we visit every year (Devon) and see how much it all changes and sadly not often for the better – we still have our heartstrings tugged ….
    How’s Ellie? And the boys? I won’t have to ask after the dog, I know HE is well… 🙂

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    1. Yes, those names are pretty good aren’t they? And I’m impressed by your actually having had your own drystone walls. Ellie and the boys on the home stretch now. Thank you. Fingers crossed.


  2. Such a great post, Margaret–both the excellent photos and the fun background on the technical terms. I remember my father and grandfather picking stubborn stone from the rocky soil on the farm. They made walls but I think it was more just something to do with all those stones than any real craft. Hard work!

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      1. Well, technically I’m not, as in I wasn’t born there, but I think I have explained previously that I was born on the other sode of the Pennines and my hb in Yorkshire. We lived in and around Leeds for many years, often taking the kids on Sunday drives in the Morris Minor. Burnsall was a favourite, it had a little stream and small patch of sand in the middle of a field. We would go to Harrogate with a horde of neighbourhood kids to buy American ice-cream. We took them on Ilkley Moor so my hb could teach them how to sing what may as well be his national anthem 😄

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      2. There used to be an American Ice-Cream Parlour in Harrogate that had lots of excitng flavours unknown to us Brits at the time. We were used to vanilla, strawberry and chocolate but they had wonderful combinations like pistachio and almond, tutti-frutti, mint choc chip, rum and raisin etc.

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    1. Well, today’s Mediaeval event at Fountains was rained off, and I’m currently wearing a cosy fleece and cosier socks. Are you sure you want to come home?


  3. One thing I missed seeing (well, one of many things), while in England was you wonderful stone walls. I have said many times that those walls would be enough to bring me back one day!

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  4. Great post, Margaret. I am so pleased that this art is still being practised; I see evidence of this in my travels round the country. There has been a recent resurgence here in hedge-laying for which I am truly glad. More of the local farmers are starting to keep sheep again, which may have something to do with it.

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    1. Good to know that the traditional way of ‘fencing’ is doing well in your part of the world too. I’m just reading Stephen Moss’s book ‘Wild Kingdom’ though, which demonstrates there is a lot of work and re-education still to do.

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