Gloucestershire Campaign to Protect Rural England

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New CPRE member's passion for walls

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 11:31

Chris Leach - Cotswolds Dry-Stone Waller Chris Leach - Cotswolds Dry-Stone Waller Lucy Blyth

9 January 2019

I recently had the privilege of interviewing a new CPRE Gloucestershire member, Chris Leach, who is a well-known face around the Cotswolds. Chris is a true example of someone who found a rural passion and turned it into his job. Those of you who are lucky enough to combine passion with employment will know it does not come quickly or easily. It often takes hours, even years, of dedication and considerable experience but always accompanied with a love of what you do. Chris is no exception and now builds and restores Cotswold dry-stone walls all over Gloucestershire and beyond.

Chris’s love of the countryside comes from a dairy farming background on a farm in Little Rissington. He did not initially follow his rural passion, starting in the automotive industry first. As with many, employment is a necessity and personal passions often get left for limited hobby time. Chris did just that, attending a dry-stone walling course, run by the Dry-Stone Walling Association (DSWA), in his spare time. Chris, still a member of DSWA, is very supportive of the organisation that gave him so much help in the early days.

Chris then spent his spare time practicing his craft at every opportunity (some good friends probably have better garden walls now!). By May 2003 Chris decided to take the leap and resign from his job and dedicate his time to dry-stone walling. He started work on the Batsford Estate and still works there, along with many other clients.

While all stone walls probably look the same to many of us, the subtle difference in height, width and construction between field and domestic walls means every job is different. I asked Chris what fed, and continues to feed, his passion for his job and the rural life. “The privilege of feeling a real part of this countryside and seeing its every detail. I even make sure toads go back into the same piece of wall. A newer, stronger home for them hopefully!” Red kites, buzzards and sparrow hawks will keep a watch full eye on his work too. 

Chris hopes more young people will become interested in dry-stone walling. Surprisingly the job is not really seasonally affected. Chris points out that he only loses days due to severe frost or snow. “Like most rural crafts, it can be frustrating to begin with. I know I have to reach a certain speed but keep the quality of the build. After a long time, it does become intuitive,” continues Chris. “It keeps you fit too, and you create something that will hopefully last another 100 years.”

Chris explains why he became a member of CPRE, "I joined CPRE because I care about the countryside and am really concerned about the number, and quality, of the houses that are being built around us. We can only influence the decisions to put the right homes in the right places if we give our countryside a voice at all levels of local and national government. CPRE does just that.”

For those, of any age, who are interested in learning how to start dry-stone walling see more information at the Dry Stone Walling Associationor at our local Cotswold Conservation Board.

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