A year ago I became a kind of consultant for a property owner who wanted to take on a small bridge project . We chatted by email and I went to visit the proposed site near his house.
Having talked to me and after studying up on what I'd written he was eager to try to build the bridge himself. Yesterday, a year later he wrote and sent me this photo of the bridge he'd completed over a small concrete watercourse. I commended him on his accomplishment and asked him to write a bit about his experience building in dry stone, Here is his reply.
' When I started I had never really touched a stone for the purpose of building anything. I have always admired stonework particularly, dry stone work. I play a lot of golf and have travelled around the country side in Scotland a lot in recent years. You see wonderful structures and walls that I imagine have been there for centuries. I like to imagine all that has happened around them over all that time yet they remain unchanged. That permanence appeals to me. I like to imagine the bridge I built will be there for many family events over the years and then, long after I am gone, it will remain. As for the construction and stone work - I struggled at first. The angled concrete bed made it quite tricky to keep the lines running horizontal. I imagine if it was built into the slope of a creek bank it would have been much easier. It just took a long time. There were many times I wished I had never started but my motto became - "just find the next stone." I started a new job a couple of weeks ago and have what seems to be an insurmountable amount of work in front of me. I have repeated my stone building motto to myself more than once. It's interesting - at times you get to points where you get stuck for what feels like hours then you solve the problem and before you know it you have fired in three or four rocks. I also found there were times that I would stare at the rock pile and it would seem the stone I needed did not exist. The next morning I would walk up to the stone pile still looking for the same rock and I would see multiple options that would work. Maybe you get tired and can't see the possibilities. Its interesting to think about how the stones were formed. The seams that enable you to split the rocks must have been formed by some geological event millions of years ago. Maybe a rain storm washed a layer of sediment over the forming rocks forming a weakened layer and here I am splitting it down that same seam today. I would also say the frustration that occurs when you have invested an hour into finding and shaping a singular stone only to have it shatter as you try to clip off the last small edge with a rock hammer is bone crushing. I got the stone from Upper Canada. They have this very beautiul brown stone but it is very brittle and caused me a lot of heart break. I also learned that logistics are half the battle and keeping a clean worksite is important to keep from injuring yourself. I now know that you can't use my father's favourite construction saying - "its good enough" - in stone building. A shortcut here only leads to a problem there. If I could start again I would change a few things but overall I am very proud of the bridge. The good news is that I had 30 tons of rock delivered so I have more than enough for the next project - I think it will be an entrance gate...or maybe something else. Its amazingly hard work but the outcome is a beautiful piece of art (at least to me) and very much worth it. '
Well done Tim