If you’ve been reading my blog over at The Year of Living Englishly (theyearoflivingenglishly.wordpress.com), you’ll know that I’m crazy about (in a good way) stone walls and just about anything historic except leeches, sewage running in the gutters, and various deadly plagues. My previous post about typical English stone walls and how to build them can be found at: http://theyearoflivingenglishly.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/how-to-build-a-stone-wall/
Today I’m in New Hampshire visiting my son on his 16th birthday at his boarding school, and it’s wonderful to see how happy he is there. We stayed at a beautiful old inn near Littleton, NH, a former 200-year-old dairy farm with stone walls that have been badly overgrown over the years. The new owners are busy clearing away the undergrowth and have managed to reveal several stretches of wall.
Here’s the New Hampshire wall:
It’s been estimated that at their peak just after the Civil War, there were about 240,000 miles of stone walls in New England, though I haven’t found a more recent estimate. In contrast, England has about 70,000 miles, which seems small in comparison, but in general they’re much better maintained and still in use. Many of the New England walls have fallen down or been swallowed up by new growth forests that appeared when farmers moved to Ohio and other points west for more fertile, less stony ground.
The wall I saw in New Hampshire looked remarkably like the one I saw several months ago at the National Stone Centre in Middleton-by-Wirksworth, Derbyshire, England. Here’s the UK wall:
Both walls use huge boulders as single stones, both tip the stones slightly downward so the water drains off, and both have slight “gaps” between stones which is believed to help keep sheep in the field.
Clearly the person who built the New Hampshire stone wall 200 years ago knew how to work with huge boulders–perhaps a new immigrant to America from Scotland, North Wales, or Dartmoor.
If you’re interested in reading an article in the Atlantic magazine about the world’s best builder of stone walls (or “waller”), take a look at: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2000/05/finkel.htm
Thanks for reading this post about one of my passions which, luckily for me, can be found in both England and its namesake, New England.