Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
The lowdown on dry stone walls.
Dry stone walls are as iconic as our beloved hedgerows, and are true architectural wonders. These 3D jigsaw puzzles, built without the aid of mortar or cement, can stand for centuries and provide shelter for wildlife as well as a rich habitat for mosses and lichens. So while Canal & River Trust volunteers have been busy restoring a 150-metre section of dry stone wall along the Rochdale Canal these past few weeks, we thought we'd dig out some dry stone trivia.
We have 125,000 miles of dry stone wall in Britain, some of them dating as far back as 3,500BC. The oldest known examples can be found in the village of Skara Brae on Orkney. Many of our dry stone walls are field boundaries, built in the early to mid-1800s in response to the enclosure acts.
Dry stone walls are self-supporting because of their unique construction method – a jigsaw puzzle of stones locked together under the force of their own weight. Local styles vary, but the basic rule is for the width of the base to equal the height of the wall (usually 1.4m), and the width of the top to be half that of the base.
Dry stone walls are commonly found in upland Britain, where land is higher, soil is thinner and there are more rocky outcrops. The weather is usually harsher in these areas, making it harder for trees and hedgerows to grow. In particularly windy places, you’ll find holes in the dry stone walls for the wind to pass through, making them less likely to topple over. These are called lace walls.
Just like a hedgerow, a dry stone wall offers varied habitats for wild animals, often having an exposed, wet side and a warm, dryer side. There are lots of nooks and crannies for insects and small animals to shelter in, and lichens and mosses thrive on the stones, creating rich bedding for ivy and ferns to take hold. Left neglected, though, too much vegetation growing within the walls will eventually destroy it.
Different rocks have distinct characteristics that determine how they can be split and shaped. In the north and west parts of England, rocks are older and harder than rocks in the southeast, making them less malleable to work with. Dry stone walls are usually built from local stone, helping retain their unique character, and wallers often have their own signature style, too.
The only tool a dry stone waller uses is a sharp-edged hammer, to shape the stone when necessary. A good waller seldom uses the hammer in their craft, preferring to use his or her expertise to find the perfect rock to fit the gap.
Dry stone wallers have their own unique vocabulary: a corner is a 'quoin', a layer is a 'course', and to shape the stone, in walling language, is to 'dress' it.
Words: Abigail Whyte
You're reading Waterfront, the online home of our supporters magazine. If you want to be the first to find out about out latest news and features then become a Friend of the Trust. We'll send you regular emails telling you all about our colourful canals and rivers and much more.
Become a Friend today