7 May 1999

A WAY WITH A WALL, BIG

&SMALL

SIMON Lumbs first question when asked to build a dry stone wall is: "Little or large?"

He specialises in two types – the full-size, stock-proof version that marks out field boundaries, and tiny, model affairs on polished wooden plinths which you can stand on the mantelpiece.

Simon has been walling since he was five, plugging gaps on his fathers 28ha (70-acre) farm in Halifax. Hes now married with four sons and working as the cowman for Philip Platts at Home Farm, West Bretton, near Wakefield, but has lost none of his passion for stone. Weekends and holidays will find him entering competitions, walling in fields and gardens or building his models.

Hes a self-taught craftsman who can tackle any dry stone feature, from squeeze styles to lunky holes and cheek ends. His garden work includes outside fireplaces, curved walls, arches, seats and alcoves. Economy with materials is his hallmark. When the local council was building in West Bretton he put up a beautiful 30yd wall with the bits they threw away! Hes a member of the 150-strong Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Guild, set up only five years ago. The county with more walls than any other deserved its own organisation according to the leadership. It demonstrates at all the regions major shows, runs courses and gives talks.

Like several of his fellow members, Simon is keen on model walling which has won him several prizes since he took it up three years ago. He started by making miniature walls for friends and is now getting commissions.

"I can build one in about two evenings working from a photograph," said Simon. "It is usually a corner of a field, a favourite spot on a farm or in a garden that somebody wants as a momento."

Built to scale the model walls are detailed and realistic. He uses thin sheets of stone which he has split off roofing slates, snipped to size with pincers and glued together. Different colours, grey, yellow or black, go in and if there is a bit of green moss left on so much the better.

His wooden gates have brass hinges and fittings and the artificial grass a patch of simulated mud. "They have got more elaborate as I have progressed. I buy lots of bits and pieces from model shops," said Simon.

"Model walls make a nice talking piece and excellent book ends."

Tom Montgomery