On-the-job training

Workshop participants help to create stone wall at St. Pat’s in Woody Point

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on July 22, 2014

After a weekend of hauling stone, Greg Wood’s muscles were letting him know how they felt on Monday.

“We moved probably five tonnes of stone,” said Wood with a laugh and added he could feel it when he moved certain ways.

“But it was fun, the wall was done.”

The wall in question is a retaining wall at St. Pat’s in Woody Point.

The 139-year-old former Roman Catholic Church has found a new calling as a concert hall under the ownership of Gros Morne Summer Music.

The wall build was a joint project between Gros Morne Summer Music and Newfoundland Flagstone that also served as a dry stone walling workshop.

The workshop was led by master craftsman Dan Snow of Dummerston, Vermont.

Snow owns Dan Snow Stoneworks and has worked in the field professionally for 39 years. He specializes in dry stone walling, stone craft and environmental art.

He was invited by Ken Tuach, owner of Newfoundland Flagstone and a craftsman with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain to lead the workshop.

Snow is an examiner with the association and has been in the area before to examine some of Tuach’s work as he moves through the certification process.

“They really accomplished a good stretch of wall in that time,” said Snow of the two-day build by the workshop’s five participants.

Using 11 and one half tonnes of stone from Newfoundland Flagstone they built a 40-foot long wall that curves along the church property and slopes up to the back of the building on the hill. The height of the wall varies from a foot and one half to three feet.

“A very complicated construction compared to, for instance ,something that is a straight wall on a piece of flat ground,” said Snow.

But the result serves a practical purpose.

“What is created behind the wall is a relatively flat area, so it will be possible to either sow it with grass seed or perhaps have plants there,” he said.

On the face side is a gravel pathway for pedestrians or a car to get to the top of the hill and the back of the church.

Wood lives in Glenburnie and has been interested in stone work for some time. He’s always thinking about what he could do around his own property, everything from French-styled stone ovens to walls.

A couple of years ago he built a fireplace out of stone.

“That thing didn’t stay together too well because I didn’t have any skills about it. I just sort of built it,” he said.

But Wood was interested in getting those skills. Unable to take in a workshop he saw advertised for English Harbour previously he jumped at the opportunity to take this one.

“The ideas that Dan gave us on how to plan for and develop a wall are excellent,” he said.

When asked what interests him about stone, Wood said “it’s so permanent.”

 He’s seen many stone walls in his travels through Europe, England and Ireland. “And they’ve been there hundreds, if not thousands of years,” Wood said.

Wood also has an interest in gardening and can see stone walls in his garden. They could help keep animals out and the heat in.

“So there’s all kinds of reasons why stone is so efficient,” he said.

While it involves a lot of physical labour at the start, Wood thinks it’s worth it.

“It’s like anything that’s going to last a long time it requires a huge amount of investment up front.” he said.

Seeing the result at St. Pat’s is a bonus for him for the work he put in and he’s interested in learning more.

“I think the next time we should hold a workshop at my house,” he said.

That way he might get his stone oven.