Traditional Boundaries Survey : Conclusion
It is generally the case that the holding boundaries within the four areas that comprise the study differ markedly in terms of style, construction, materials and condition. With regard to dry stone walls, it is evident that the available material largely determines the style of construction, since walling stone would invariably be quarried locally.
In the two areas where dry stone walls predominate, areas 1 and 4, area 4 exhibits the greater diversity of style, and refurbishment appears to part of the general regime. However there is some cause for concern in that a great many of these walls although remaining stock proof are beginning to show signs of deterioration.
This generally manifests itself in the loss of top stones and of some sections of the upper courses. Where this is the result of damage by stock etc. it can be fairly easily addressed. However, it is often symptomatic of a divergence of the wall faces and eventually leads to collapse. By contrast the walls of Area 1 are constructed largely of random, uncoursed igneous andesite, a fairly intractable material with which to work and possibly producing less stable structures.
Areas 2 and 3 bear strong similarities to each other, which is of little surprise considering their geographic proximity. Although there are some good sections of drystone wall, which appear to be maintained, in Area 3, hedge banks are the most common form of boundary. These tend to have been planted generally up to a altitude of around 200m OD and were no doubt favoured as they were relatively cheap to establish.
Bailey and Culley estimated in 1796 that the expense of a rood of seven yards was 1s. 4d. (exclusive of quicks and railing) whereas the same for a dry stone wall cost around 6s. 6d. and amounted to twelve or fourteen cartloads of stone (Culley and Bailey, 1804, 62). However, the obvious disadvantage of hedges is the amount of maintenance required to keep it stock proof and as a result the hedges within the four areas are almost universally redundant with areas of replanting almost negligible.
An attempt to construct a chronology for the limited sample of boundaries studied is difficult and would perhaps work better in a broader study which compared all the walls within particular holdings, rather than relying on ones which are partially modern constructs.
Our earliest boundary is Hadrian’s Wall, and it would be otiose to add anything further to such a well-known and well-documented subject. Identifiable mediaeval boundaries are limited to the remains of sections of the Deer Park Wall at Lordenshaws (Area 2 section 13) and possibly the section of hedge bank at High Shield (Area 4 HB section 16). It is probable that more survive, particularly where they coincide with the long established parish and township boundaries, and while with little variation over time these may not be readily identified on the ground.
Clearly the major phase of construction was the 18th century, with further less rapid development in the early 19th century. Although the majority of the boundaries, which survive as structures, fit into this period it remains a broad band into which there was often more than one phase of construction. At Whiskershiels for example we have sections of wall constructed on the footings of earlier walls and, as is particularly evident in area 1 but was generally noted in all areas, hedge banks and wall foundations running parallel, and in addition to these, modern post and wire fences running alongside.
Finally, the effect of the widespread adoption of post and wire fences cannot be underestimated. Undoubtedly, the economic restraints on agriculture make it the most effective means of stock proofing, particularly over the wide swathes of moorland and hill country, but its effect on landscape diversity and wildlife habitat must be profound.