A new life in a traditional industry

A new life ina traditional Industry

Emma Yates used learning on our dry stone walling courses to get her out of the office and working in the countryside doing a job she loves. Read her story, told in her own words.


One memorable Saturday evening December 2013 I was telling a friend about an article I had read about a female dry stone waller. She had left her job to change career some years previously and was now walling. I particularly remember the photo of her stood by her truck, dog by her side, looking very content. "That's my dream job", I told my friend; after a short pause, she turned to me and said… "well why aren't you doing it?" To which, of course, I had no answer.

Actually my answer did result in an incredible change in my life. After the conversation I contacted the Eco Centre in Wirksworth and booked myself onto the Lantra Dry Stone Walling level 1 course. My intent was to see whether I enjoyed walling and could possibly make a living out of it. After the first day I was hooked; the tutors were consistently superb providing encouragement, support and a great learning atmosphere.

For the last 12 years I had been in a very sedentary job and in latter years I had been spending up to 7-9 hours a day sitting at a computer… I had back problems, stomach problems, migraines at least once a week. I was on tablets to manage all of these symptoms.

But I had reached a point of now or never. It felt if I didn't listen to what my heart, soul and body was saying then I risked becoming ill. Being outdoors, walling lifted my heart, it was where I wanted to be.

Our tutors had encouraged us to find a wall to work on and I had approached a farmer friend who had 'given' me a stretch of wall on a hill overlooking the Carsington valley. Alone, but for the ewes and lambs I realised that my life had become like the wall I was working on. In any wall, the biggest and most important stones are the foundation stones and they should be at the bottom. If they are higher up they de-stabilise the wall and it will eventually fall down. The most important parts of my life…my health, my partner, my family were not in the most important place…in the foundations. It was time to take my wall down and rebuild it!

In May 2014 I handed in my notice and 2 months later my career as a dry stone waller was launched. In December whilst walling yesterday a car stopped and the driver, laughingly said, "I bet you wish you were working in an office". I looked down the 14 metres of wall I have rebuilt and remembered the sleepy 4 toads I have moved to new holes in the wall. I don't take tablets any more, I have lost weight and toned up, I now know many more people in my community who stop to chat; I am creating a thing of beauty using skills passed down over centuries and I am gloriously happy. I turned back to the driver…"No, not at all, I couldn't be happier".

With thanks to the Eco Centre and the tutors from Walls for the Future for helping me rediscover my life."