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Dry Stane Dykes

(Dry Stone Walls!)

Balcary Heughs

We hardly notice them and yet they are to be found in every part of Scotland (and in many other countries too!). But it is our local walls we know about.

They twist across the landscape and seem to be utterly ageless. It is as though they have always been there and they always will be. Sturdy, practical and built with such skill that some dry stone dwellings have been here since the Bronze Age. There are many examples in the Western and Northern Isles.

In Cornwall the walls are of squared off stones and have elaborate patterns.

The walls we like best are the “Boulder Dykes”, for they require a special degree of craftsmanship if they are to stand firm from year to year. These walls are made from completely undressed stones – quite literally the stones and boulders that are available in the area. As you would expect, they are often found near the coast.


There are photographs of two such walls on this page – one is near the edge of a wood and is covered in moss and has ferns and rushes growing at its base. It has not had to withstand the buffeting endured by the second wall, for it winds its way along a cliff
edge, has weathered countless Atlantic storms and is grey and lichen covered. The first wall has more of a problem, with water undermining its foundations! Both walls are about 3.5 feet (1.25m) high and are in an excellent state of repair.


Have you ever thought just how important these types of walls are? Or how they can be likened to a church?

It is said that a master dyker never had need to pick up two stones, for the first was always exactly the one he needed. Some stones are large but others are so small and seemingly unimportant. Yet, without them filling the tiny cracks in the structure, the large boulders would soon slip and fall. And doesn't God use all talents in His church?

The strength of a stane dyke lies in the fact that is does not attempt to stop the full might of any storm. Ideally about 20% of the wind passes through it and yet everything on the leeward side is protected and unruffled by the gale. A solid wall causes the wind to rise up over the top and sweep down on any unsuspecting plant on the other side. The result can be devastating in a garden or on a field of standing crops. And a church which absorbs trouble will remain far longer than one which strives to be immovable.

As it says in Psalm 122 v 7:

“Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”

Is your church like that?
Each member part of a wall which supports and protects and which stands firm from year to year.

Is your church in a privileged area where few storms are felt?
Is there some moss among the stones?
Are the foundations firmly grounded upon the Rock of the Word?

Or does your church stand firm and true and weather every storm?

Maybe every church could do with a little overhaul from the Master Dyker, who never has to select a second stone for the first, the one in His Hand, is always perfect for whatever task He has planned!

Copyright (c) Elizabeth M. Tolson 30th October 2002

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