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Derbyshire: Proving Ourselves Against the British Tradition

EVERYBODY PASSED! 10/8/2022

And two people got perfect scores on their throughs! 6 out of 6!

Greetings from Derbyshire! Nine of us have been training—under the tutelage of Master Craftsmen Sally Hodgson and Trevor Wragg—for over a week to achieve Dry Stone Walling Association certification on Friday October 7—four at Level 1, four at Level 2, and one at Level 3. It is a glorious and grueling challenge made lighter by the tremendous humor and cheer that instructors and wallers alike bring to each day! By now Level 1 candidates have stripped out and rebuilt 2.5 square meter stints four times in two days of training and two of “testing.” That’s 5000 pounds of stone each time! No wonder some of feel tired and sore by day’s end.

Level 2 candidates have been doing the same on wall ends. If you’ve experienced a Cheek Rebuild Workshop, you know how they are challenging themselves to finish in seven hours. Our Level 3 Waller brings the experience to manage his own test preparation with plenty of guidance from Sally. Having passed his Level 3A feature build–a curved wall with lunkey (pass through for animals)–he is ready for the Level 3B speed test. Martin will be stripping out and rebuilding a double-faced retaining wall… in seven hours. The time limit adds tons of pressure to the tons of stone!

Level 1 and 2 candidates have taken two tests already. The first test was a speed test. Finish the wall! You don’t pass if you don’t finish. Everyone finished. Phew! The second was a “mock” test. Finish the wall and meet the passing criteria. Not surprisingly, the mock test is a considerably greater challenge. For the rest of this second week of the Derbyshire American Training Program, we’ll be building strength where we’ve noted relative weakness and preparing the site for test day. By the time you read this we will all have passed! Fingers crossed!

Today, two days before test day, the sky is pouring buckets. Wallers are resting and touring, several to Chatsworth House, one to explore Bakewell, several to lunch at the Blue Lagoon and then head on to an antique bookstore and cafe in Wirksworth. They will stop at St. Mary’s Church, famous for intricate stained glass and stone carvings.

We are grateful for the wonderful support that Stone Trust instructor Judy Rand is providing to all of us. Having already accomplished Level 2 certification under Trevor’s tutelage, she is here making sure that everything runs smoothly and comfortably for everyone. Thank you, Judy!

In between walling we’ve enjoyed several nights out, a hike at Kinder, and walks just down the hills through the National Stone Centre to see the Millenium Wall and quarries,and the local environs of Wirksworth, Cromford, and Matlock. We’re staying at Mount Cooke Adventure Centre, designed to make the outdoors accessible to everyone. We are learning at the Derbyshire Ecocentre, the county hub for teaching people to live more lightly on the earth. The three organizations exist as an inspired combination of approaches to encouraging appreciation of the wonders of the planet we enjoy and the know-how for sustaining it.