Chris Wilson – Dry Stone Waller

THE outdoor life is what Chris Wilson loves most.

The 63-year-old of Coal Fell, Hallbankgate, moved to Cumbria last year.

Previously Chris has worked as a Cheviot hill shepherd and stocksman in the Scottish Borders.

He said: “My wife is originally from this area and she wanted to move back to be closer to her family and her mum who wasn’t very well. She’s got family in the Carlisle and Penrith area. We were living in a fairly isolated spot and she was sick of it.”

Moving to Cumbria was a change of scenery for Chris but he noticed there were less sheep and cattle and so he decided to brush up on his skills as a dry stone waller.

He said: “I’d done some work like this in the past and the odd repairs over the years. There wasn’t much work in this area as a stocksman or shepherd so I decided to reinvest myself at this age in later life.”

Chris attended a course at Newton Rigg College in Penrith.

He said: “I went on a dry stone walling course – two days a week for six weeks. I would highly recommend it. As well as learning walling techniques I also learnt about safety at work.

“I really enjoyed it. It was fantastic.”

“I’ve never stopped walling since I did the course,” he said.

Chris is up at the crack of dawn and spends most of the daylight hours outside.

He said: “Building a wall is a bit like building a big 3D jigsaw,” he said.

“It’s not the same as working with cattle. It’s peaceful. It’s a thoughtful job. I take my dogs with me and they sit alongside me as I work away. The hours pass by quickly.”

He said: “Every wall has its own problems and some of them can be quite challenging, but I enjoy it.”

Chris is currently using his skills working on a wall at an old pump house.

He has also completed courses in Sit Astride ATV and the Transport of Livestock on short journeys, demonstrating perfectly the opportunities The Edge has provided to re-train and support career change at any age, a priority for both ESF and Cumbria LEP.

He can now move about the estates he works on competently and safely on the ATV’s. He is also able to move stock about in a competent manner being fully aware of relevant welfare standards and requirements.

Chris firmly believes his additional skills have made his business more competent and professional when pitching for new contracts.

He said: “I’d definitely do more courses like this in the future. They have really helped me.”

He is looking to expand his business contacts and contracts and will look at further training opportunities within the land based industry.

The courses Chris attended were available through The Edge and funded by ESF.