Croatian stonemasons visit Gayle Mill

Members of a stonemasonry school of Croatia have visited Gayle Mill in Wensleydale to hear from a team of keen local volunteers what stone means to the Dales.

The visit was part of the European Heritage Days scheme – Europe’s biggest participatory cultural initiative.

Led by Sarah Dashwood, they had stories to tell over a British cup of tea, under a roof of hand-hewn stone slates, surrounded by walls of stone that have echoed to graft for two centuries, and have the chipped-off edges and makeshift improvements to show for it.

They were joined by two members of the Drystone Walling Association, to share how the Dales would be nothing without its field walls and barns.

In the same way that language has dialect and local accent, so does building, so the craic included a search for common terminology as well as being fascinated by the differences in traditions, techniques and tools 1,500 miles apart.

Having shown the guests the mill’s functions, which the Croatians were totally unfamiliar with, Sarah commented, ‘I wonder if this is the first time crafts workers from Croatia or former Yugoslavia have ever been to Gayle Mill; it just goes to show that even after a couple of hundred years, Gayle Mill can
still write history.’

Tamara Plastič, director of the school called Klesarska Škola, said: “We mainly work on ornamental and structural limestone, so to see how generations of hands have made a landscape from stone is so inspiring.”

The Croatians were taking part in a training week across the UK organised and hosted by their partner Cultura Trust, with support from the Headley Trust, to castles, York Minster – and Gayle Mill.