Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Well the stone festival season is well and truly upon us.
This year I started my festival season with a trip to Austria’s largest wine-producing town, Langenlois. The wine however was just a indulgence and not my main reason for traveling here. And as much as I like a ‘dry’ white wine, it was in fact the ‘dry’ stone I was here for.
But before I can reminisce about hot weather and cold wine I have to go back to The Gathering of Stones 2013 to when we met Helmut Schieder.
Helmut attended The Gathering of Stones event in Ireland back 2013 and like many others he left the Gathering of Stones hungry for more. About six months later a number of us from that event were contacted by Helmut and invited to instruct at his ‘Stein und Wein’ (Stone and Wine) festival in Langenlois.
The festival was spread out over an area of the vineyards at Heiligenstein and the grounds of Gartenbauschule Langenlois horticultural college nearby where Helmut works.
The first day of the week long events was a day of talks and presentations by various esteemed academics, architects, engineers from all over Europe as well as a number of talks by various wallers.
The only barriers at this event were dry stone ones we built, as live translators turned wild Celtic ramblings into coherent Germanic talks and vice versa for us English speaking symposiasts.
Helmut was keen to open the eyes and the minds of students, teachers, landscape gardeners and architects from across Europe to dry stone walls and also demonstrate that there is more to stone walls than function and aesthetics.
On the second day we got stuck into some serious walling.
There were five different builds on over four days, with groups of students from all over Europe rotating each day to a different wall.
Nick Aitken and Eddie Farrelly worked on a large double sided boulder wall
The double sided boulder wall was built using local marble rubble and stretched over 22 meters in length.
They somehow even found time to add two special features. A ‘sheep creep’ (or a ‘lunky’ if you’re Nick) and a ‘stile’.
It was a unusually hot week for the time of year while we were there, peaking at about 36°C. Fortunately there was plenty of shade and this lovely natural swimming pool on the grounds to keep us cool.
Just up from the natural swimming pool Ken Curran and myself were instructing students on constructing a 10 meter section of a traditional Irish ‘Feidin’ wall using a mix of reclaimed building stone of various stone types.
Fedin walls are not only aesthetically beautiful but they are also a wonderful wall to build with groups. For those of you unfamiliar with Feidin walls, they are a combination wall of a double wall for the first lift with a single wedged wall on top. This type of Feidin here is know as an Aran Feidin and is particularly poetic with its names for the components. The large uprights are called ‘máthair’ or ‘mother’ stones. The small stones between them are ‘na páistí’ or ‘children’ with the large vertical stones that protect the top of the wall called ‘athair’ or father stones.
In another area in the gardens Pat McAfee began work on a 15 meter long wedged retaining wall using the local ‘gneiss’ stone.