Residential in the Peak District

At the end of May, OCV ventured north to the Peak District for a weekend of stone pitching. We stayed at Brunt’s Barn Volunteers’ Centre in Grindleford. After navigating the Friday night (bank holiday) queues around Oxford, we finally arrived at the barn just before 11pm and ate a late pizza supper.

The task for the weekend was stone pitching on Washgate Lane, a packhorse track near Hollinsclough, leading down to the river Dove. Stone pitching is basically like dry stone walling but horizontally rather than vertically. The aim is to make a hard wearing surface that will withstand both the weather and people using the track. In this case, it is on a slope and so there is erosion from water running down the track. It is also a byway, and popular with motorbike riders – this youTube video illustrates the effect the motorbikes have on the path!

On the first day, what we had to do was to identify a section of the path which looked like it was in need of repair, but away from the bedrock. Then dig a hole, getting all of the loose rocks and soil out:

Stone pitching 1 - A hole is dug (easier said than done in stony ground)

The next step was to fill the hole with stones, aligned with the flat side vertical, and edge pointing upwards. This provides a solid foundation, and good grip.

Stone pitching 2 - Hole is filled with stones with as few gaps as possible ('horizontal drystone walling')

The gaps between the stones were filled with smaller stones and grit to keep them in place:

Stone pitching 3 - Gaps between the stones and filled with grit and soil

And finally the top was packed with soil to fill the small gaps:

Stone pitching 4 - Top of the gaps is packed with soil to hold it all in place

It was slow going on Saturday – particularly because of the rain, which eventually filled our first hole up the hill and then cascaded down the track filling the others… At this point we had to stop work, and went back to the barn to dry off. In the end though, it was a beautiful evening, and we went for a walk along Froggatt Edge.

We did manage to finish all of our holes on Sunday – here is the final completed section:

Happy and muddy stone pitchers on the completed section.

On Monday, we went for another walk starting from Brunt’s Barn up Padley Gorge and out onto Hathersage Moor.

Hathersage Moor

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and successful weekend. Thanks to Tim for leading from OCV, and the Conservation Volunteers’ Officers at PPCV for the task and instructing us in what to do. There are a few more photos on the main website, here.


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