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“No heavy machinery was brought in or anything like that. It’s all done by manual labour. There are no drills — it’s all chisels and axes.”

The clincher was that Bland’s wall of stone matched the group’s vision to conserve nature.

“There is a feeling of permanence, which is what we want to convey for this area,” Williams said.

“We’ve been working for 20 years to preserve these woods. Some of the old-growth forest here is absolutely magnificent, with trees over 100 years old. It has hickory, maple and groves of beech.”

The wall’s location also had to be considered in a forest of twisting pathways.

“It was better to put it in the woods and let people find it,” Williams said. “This is a major crossing. When the sun shines through the trees, it’s a beautiful spot.”

Made from 32 tonnes of local fieldstone, John Bland's wall matched the Association for the Protection of Angell Woods's vision to conserve nature.
Made from 32 tonnes of local fieldstone, John Bland’s wall matched the Association for the Protection of Angell Woods’s vision to conserve nature. Allen McInnis/Montreal Gazette

It took Bland three months to build the wall by himself, with nothing more than a hammer, chisel, axe and pure muscle power.

“Probably half that time was gathering stone and dragging it around. The other half was building it,” he said.

There is no mortar to hold the stones together — just the weight of gravity and carefully chiselled and fitted rock. Protruding stones on each side of the wall serve as places to sit and rest beneath a canopy of trees.

The wall also has a portal in the middle. “It’s not keeping things in, or keeping things out,” said Bland, who credits his wife for the design. “It’s also kind of ancient-looking, from one world to the next.”

He said there is no great secret to the craft of dry stone walling.

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